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Movie Review - 'Year One'

Year One

Starring Jack Black and Michael Cera
Directed by Harold Ramis
Rated PG-13

yearoneposter.jpg The collected talent associated with Year One has made us laugh for years. Jack Black and Michael Cera are very different comic actors, but both have had success. Writers Gene Stupnisky and Lee Eisenberg are part of the creative element on The Office. And director Harold Ramis co-wrote Animal House, Stripes, Groundhog Day, and Ghostbusters.

So why does Year One try to get its biggest laughs out of scatalogical humor? I have no good answer for you, but the prehistorical buddy comedy that should be so much funnier spends more time in the gutter than it needs to.

For a long time, it appeared that Year One would never be funnier than its concept, a hunter (Black) and a gatherer (Cera) are cast out of their village and hilarity, presumably, ensues. Their sole mission is to free the women they would like to lay with, both of whom have been enslaved. Outside of "lay with," all the dialogue is pointedly contemporary. That's by design, of course; it's part of the joke.

And for an hour, Year One is better in theory than in practice. Then Oliver Platt shows up and he's very funny as an effeminate but entirely too hairy high priest of Sodom. A few scenes before that are pretty good, too, including Abraham (Hank Azaria) announcing his plan to circumcize every man in his village, and a brotherly spat between Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd). But if you take a two-day road trip and the real highlights are the quirky rest stops, you need to find a new destination next time.

The point is, nothing involving Cera and Black is very funny. That can be common with Jack Black, who despite his rather manic approach to comedy, plays some very specific notes most of the time. In this case, I just don't think the Jack Black persona is a good fit for the material. It works for School of Rock, but not here.

And there's another problem with Black, namely that his bombastic style overpowers the subtlety in Michael Cera's approach. Cera's deadpan delivery is barely audible with Jack Black on screen.

To overcome the two leads simply being a bad fit for each other, the knee-jerk reaction is to have Michael Cera, hanging upside down, not being able to control his bladder, and Jack Black, hunched over a pile of dung not able to curb his curiosity about its contents.

If you find that stuff funny, you'll enjoy about four scenes in this movie. If you don't, you'll enjoy about four other scenes in this movie.

Reader Comments (3)

you spelled scatological wrong :P

Monday, June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrammar

Okay, I had to see if my husband and I were the only ones who thought this was a mindless attempt at humor. I had a bad feeling when there were only twenty-five other people in the theater and it was the only theater playing this movie out of twelve. These writers are otherwise brilliant. What happened? I was ready to walk out after the Cain and Abel scene but was anxious to laugh so I stayed. We were disappointed to say the least. We chuckled quietly about four times and that was it. We will be looking forward to seeing Michael Cera in more movies though. He has a great delivery. Jack Black was just horribly obnoxious. No one in the theater seemed overly impressed. It will be on DVD next week.

Sunday, June 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternancy

Did Kevin the Transfomers lover see this movie? I would love to get his take on it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

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