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Jack Black has worn out his welcome with this little stinker.

  • Dec 28, 2009
Rating:
-3
If you watch SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE with any regularity...you know that it's mostly an exercise in frustration. Usually there are a few really funny moments surrounded by 90% completely half-baked material that evokes more a feeling of embarrassment for the actors than laughter. And at the end of the 90 minute show, the feeling you're left with is "well, THAT wasn't worth the trouble."

YEAR ONE is much like that. There are a few pretty funny bits, surrounded by a lot of painfully unfunny stuff. Even worse, I believe it is the movie that has finally convinced me that Jack Black has worn out his welcome. (And Michael Cera isn't far behind...big sigh!)

Black reached his "height" for me with SCHOOL OF ROCK (although I liked him in ORANGE COUNTY a lot too). The movie was perfect for his skills...a manic, over-the-top rock `n' roller with a soft heart. He was immensely likeable and his energy and love of rock shone through. Since that time, his comedies have had ever decreasing returns. NACHO LIBRE only worked to the extent that you had good feelings for Black. He worked so hard, you could practically see the flop-sweat...as though the sheer force of his personality would make the film funny. BE KIND REWIND, though in some ways delightfully quirky, didn't work in the end due in large part to Black's brash tone not suiting the more laid-back nature of the film. Even in the wonderful TROPIC THUNDER, Black's performance was the least satisfactory. And all this marginal work has slowly chipped away my goodwill, until with YEAR ONE, Black exhausted it.

Black plays a "cave man" who is a lousy hunter and yet feels the burning certainty that something greater awaits him. When he is caught eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil...he is banished from the tribe. Michael Cera is a gatherer (all other gatherers are women) who pines for Black's attractive younger sister...but is essentially meek and nerdy...not at all suitable for a tribe of cave men. He joins Black on his journey, and as they travel through land, they also seem to travel forward in time. They find themselves in "biblical" times, where they meet Cain & Abel (David Cross & Paul Rudd) and then eventually land in the city of Sodom...where Black finally finds a chance to aim for the greatness that has eluded him, when several members of his old tribe suddenly turn up as slaves (think 10,000 B.C., if by chance you endured THAT lousy movie.)

So the movie is a satire of cave man movies, but more particularly of Biblical epics and the bible itself. It is not particularly mean-spirited...so the humor isn't very pointed, and the film, at least, doesn't seem "anti-religious" in particular.

For me, the best bits included Hank Azaria as a slightly crazed Abraham, a prophet eager to carry out God's desire for his people to be circumcised. His delivery is a combination of someone like Omar Sharif and a televangelist. Other cute bits include Cera's efforts to become a living statue, Oliver Platt's outrageously ridiculous turn as the high priest of Sodom and...well, that's about it.

The cast, on paper, was promising. Michael Cera, who built up what I thought was a lifetime of good will with his hilarious work on "Arrested Development" and in JUNO here demonstrates that too much of a good thing really is too much. His stock character was perfect for SUPERBAD, but lost some of its luster with NICK & NORAH and in YEAR ONE...most of his goodwill is gone. While he was certainly funnier than Black...it was also painfully obvious that he was pretty much coasting by simply borrowing from his familiar mannerisms and delivery. It's essential that he find something to do in the future that shakes this up, even a little bit. David Cross (also beloved from "Arrested...") plays the fratricidal Abel and he manages to do absolutely nothing funny. He's trying very hard, but all his bits play like the sketches that come at the VERY end of SNL, when they're just trying to fill 5 minutes before they can wave goodbye. And Paul Rudd is Cain. We know Cain won't last as long as Abel...and his scene is very short indeed. And it's a good thing, because Cain is also not remotely funny and when the end comes for Rudd, I could only imagine how relieved he must have been to be able to get out of costume and head home.

This has all been directed by Harold Ramis...but I use the term loosely. Very little skill is shown. The pace and tone of the film are all over the place. He does very little with his camera work to hide the tiny budget he was working with. And the jokes are clumsy. It feels like some of Mel Brooks' later work...the comic style that once felt fresh has become old and tired. Ramis was once a great director (and can still be a funny performer...loved him in KNOCKED UP), but YEAR ONE is not a proud moment. Judd Apatow has his name marginally attached to this film...I wish he'd had the power or foresight to just pull the plug.

In 1975, YEAR ONE might have gotten by as an inferior but tonally related companion to YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Now it just plays like a very long, very tired, stylistically anachronistic TV sketch.

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More Year One reviews
review by . December 06, 2010
This moview makes fun of a lot of things
This film makes use of anachronisms, puns, and other devises to pock fun at history, philosophy, theology, the Bible, biblical language, sex, Rome, God, and other subjects. It is also filled with the ridiculous, such as when one of the heroes is chained upside down in prison and pees, and the urine flows down over his head, or when he saves a virgin from being a sacrifice by having sex with her.      The story begins when one of two foolish cave men friends eats the forbidden …
review by . March 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Jack Black seems to be on a mission; make a screwball comedy in every sort of movie genre possible. From playing wrestling monk to a school music teacher, to now a caveman, he finds all that is disgusting, revolting, insinuating and vulgar in any possible situation, and puts it on screen for all to see. His latest release, Year One, is a perfect example. Set in a condensed past of human history, Mr. Black and costar Michael Cera play two cavemen who leave their tribe and go traveling around the …
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Ranked #146
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Wiki

Director Harold Ramis leans away from theGroundhog Dayside of his personality and toward theCaddyshackside withYear One, a broad comedy set in more-or-less ancient times. The film's cockeyed timeline puts two wandering cavemen (Jack Black and Michael Cera) through a rapid-fire series of biblical events: Cain (David Cross) slaying Abel (Paul Rudd), Abraham (Hank Azaria) preparing to smite his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and everybody converging on Sodom, the Genesis equivalent of Las Vegas. The jokes range from droll religious references to Apatow-ready testicular gags, but almost all of the real humor comes from the efforts of the performers to put things across. Black and Cera couldn't be more different in their styles, but each manages to conjure up some laughs just by working in his particular vein: one can appreciate Black's exuberant extrovert pouncing all over the material like a needy Golden Retriever and also savor Cera's muttering wallflower as he flicks in his sidelong observations. Azaria and Oliver Platt are given very long leashes--they know what to do with that kind of room--and Ramis himself plays a mighty-bearded Adam, but it's all not quite enough to preventYear Onefrom falling into that hard-luck zone withCavemanandWholly Moses: one more comedy that suggests the ancient world wasn't really all that funny.--Robert Horton




Stills from Year One (Click for larger ...
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Details

DVD Release Date: October 6, 2009
Runtime: 196 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures

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