a critiQal film review Year One (2009)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) are cavemen who stumble out of the mountains into an epic journey of biblical proportions. One's a bumbling hunter, the other a gentle gatherer. Together, they become unlikely participants in history's most pivotal moments.

Reviewed
489 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 26s)
  • ...this inferior copy of History of the World Part I provokes few laughs - all of them from Michael Cera.

Harold Ramis and Jack Black teaming up for a comedy? Harold Ramis started off directing Chevy Chase to stardom in Caddyshack and Vacation, and has since continued to direct comedians in hits (Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, etc.), so teaming him up with funnyman Jack Black seems like a perfect setup. Toss in the deadpan comedy of Michael Cera and a little nostalgia for Mel Brooks’ comedy classic History of the World Part I, and Year One sounds like comedy gold – at least on paper.

But would Ramis still be up to snuff? Or should he just concentrate on reprising his role as Egon in the long-rumored Ghostbusters III?

Jack Black, sadly, proves with his performance in Year One that’s he more enjoyable as a voice, rather than live. While viewers are hoping Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) can get here quicker, they will quickly grow tired of Black’s live-action Zed, who bumbles his way through the film, cracking lame jokes and desperately trying to evoke an emotion from the crowd. Unfortunately, the only emotion he evokes is a sigh, as the viewer contemplates the fast-forward button in an effort to get his performance over and done with quicker.

Michael Cera is not nearly as annoying, and the few laughs generated by Year One come from his deadpan delivery. True, too often he’s the butt of cheap shots and stupid jokes, but he takes it in stride and manages to sneak a few glimmers of comedy amongst the trash.

The rest of the cast is just plain ridiculous, either way underused (the enticing Olivia Wilde) or played for cheap laughs (Hank Azaria). The rest of what is usually a not un-talented cast falls by the wayside as the film focuses on crude jokes and grade school humor to propel the story along.

The plot isn’t much better. Loosely based on the notion that these two losers trek across vast distances to rescue a few damsels in distress, the story is so thin it’s see-through. The basis is there simply to allow these two to wander into one supposedly comic situation after another in a sad attempt to fill the film’s runtime with half-hearted jokes. Sure, a see-through setup like this has worked before (History of the World Part I), but – and here’s the key point – the travels have to lead to situations that actually make the viewer laugh. If they don’t, the film is pretty much pointless and a waste of time.

Despite the grade school humor and ridiculous – and quite unfunny – situations these two get themselves into, Year One still manages to provoke a laugh or two (at most), thanks to a couple of well-delivered, completely deadpan, lines from Michael Cera.

If this is the best you can do now, Ramis, you’d better stick to playing Egon, and leaving the writing/directing duties to someone else. As for Jack, well, Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) can’t get here fast enough.

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