starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Olivia Wilde, Xander Berkly, Hank Azaria, Christopher-Mintz Plasse
written by Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
directed by Harold Raims
release date: 19 June 2009
Colombia, 97 mins., Rated PG-13
There's Frakking Worse Things
In the wake of romantic comedies and movies with mega explosions and giant robots, I sorta needed a decent comedy to tide me over. Here enterith Year One, a relatively funny comedy hanging on the shoulders of Jack Black (School of Rock) and Michael Cera (Juno), and for the most part, it's pretty good. There are some disturbing skits, abrupt editing, fair performances, and a plethora of 'hit-and-miss' jokes, but Year One is a nice hour and a half distraction that elicits some laughs, and that's what matters, right?
Zed (Black) is a bumbling buffoon of a hunter, ostracized by his peers with his only friend Oh (Cera) barely sticking up for him. An accidental fire to the village results in Zed's exile, and devoted friend he is, Oh follows. Together, they embark on a journey in which they encounter major biblical figures like Cain and Abel, and Abraham and Isaac. To their dismay, they find out their fellow tribesman have been sold into slavery after the fire, and have been located to Sodom. Vowing to rescue them - well, at least the girls they fancy: Maya and Eema - Zed and Oh do whatever they have to do to save the day, no matter the price.
Year One initially came off as a hunter/gatherer comedy, but is actually more of a biblical comedy. You got Cain and Abel and their sibling rivalry, with Cain getting the upper hand in a initially funny sequence where Cain goes ape-shit on Abel (Rudd), knocking him to death with a rock. Oh, and their Abraham and Isaac, a scene more noteworthy because of the inclusion of McLovin himself, Christopher-Mintz Plasse (sorry Christopher, no matter what, you will always retain the throne of McLovin). These scenes are actually pretty fun, as it Abraham's declaration that everyone must circumsize themselves. Oh, and Abraham is played by the bloody brilliant Hank Azaria (Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian), who is quickly outranking Ben Stiller as my favorite comedic actor. And since I'm on the topic of actors at the moment, I just want to give a shout-out to David Cross, or as I first saw him: "That guy from Arrested Development!" Although at first Cain is downright annoying and rather bastardy, by the end, his bastardy is kinda funny, and despite his being a bastard, you sorta like the man.
I am amazed to say...I actually laughed throughout. The first 20 minutes, I was worried - didn't really find anything funny, let alone amusing. Cera's monotone, awkward "skills" were really getting the best of me, and has led me to conclude this guy really can't do anything that doesn't have a hint of socially awkwardness to it, and Black just came across as some annoying dumbass with limited brain cells - if any. But once the fire happens and they meet up with Cain, things actually became a little funny, and by the last third of the flick, it was a fun fest of 'ha-ha-ness.' The only cruddy part is that there's lingering moments, and by that I mean that scenes that aren't mean to invoke a laugh just go on and on with what I'm guessing to be the Apatow School of Improv (Rudd's single scene as Abel comes to mind). But they weren't bad enough to ruin the movie.
What did suck, however, and basically made me turn my head away, were sequences in which in Sodom, Oh becomes a sort of man servant to some freaky uber hairy uper class dude, who demands a wax massage. Talk about gross. I'd rather take a Saw-like entrapment device with a slim possibility of servival over that torture. So, basically, everything with this much-hairy guy was quite gross and revolting. Luckily, this crass shit is interpsread with some rather funny moments with Jack Black and Olivia Wilde (TV: House), who is the Sodom's king's daughter.
So, basically, there are plenty of strong and plenty of weak points spread throughout Year One; Michael Cera's "performance" initially annoyed me with its redundancy, while Black prevailed as a force of funniness; and there's a good amount of laughter, which a comedy sorta sets out to do, so in that regard, Year One is a success. But there's just one thing that's still nagging me: how the hell did Oh get out of that snake problem in the first 10 minutes?