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Movie Review: 'Year One' overdoes it a bit with low-brow humor

Lane Blevins • Jun 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

I love all the components of “Year One.”

First, there is the immortal Harold Ramis in the director’s chair. The man is the writer behind “Caddyshack,” “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters,” to name only a few.

Then there are Ramis’ co-writers on the script, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who previously collaborated with Ramis on a little NBC show I love and that you may have heard of called “The Office.”

And let’s not forget the stars of the film. Jack Black and Michael Cera aren’t exactly lightweights of comedy. Black’s physicality is almost unmatched, and Cera could perhaps be THE best deadpan humorist ever.

Of course, you can’t mention comedy these days without acknowledging the ever-present Judd Apatow, who stepped in to produce this movie.

Ultimately, these ingredients made for an enjoyable viewing experience as far as I’m concerned; however, it would seem all of these wonderful components of “Year One” could add up to one big turn-off for some folks.

First, if you don’t like Jack Black or Michael Cera, you won’t get much out of this film except a sinking feeling that you just wasted nearly 10 bucks on a movie ticket. I say this because the script was quite obviously crafted to let Black and Cera simply be themselves. I am an avid fan of both actors and could watch them do simply that for two hours and be satisfied.

“Year One” is about a hunter named Zed (Jack Black) and a gatherer named Oh (Michael Cera) who are outcasts amongst their primitive tribe.

Frustrated with the pair’s continual bad luck, Zed decides to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, much to the discouragement of Oh. When the transgression is discovered by the rest of the villagers, the pair is ousted from the tribe and begin their long journey to a new destiny.

Along the way they encounter many famous biblical characters and places, including Cain and Abel, as well as Abraham and the city of Sodom.

David Cross and Paul Rudd playing Cain and Abel were a riot, but again, their appearance was mostly David Cross and Paul Rudd simply being themselves. Oliver Platt’s rendition of the High Priest of Sodom, on the other hand, was a performance unto its own. Very funny stuff.

Also funny in “Year One” were all the jokes and parodies about early civilization and the intelligence of early man. At the beginning of the film, Cera’s character Oh criticizes Zed for not being privy to the common knowledge that just over the mountains surrounding their villages, the world abruptly ends in a vast nothingness.

This brand of humor made the flick reminiscent of the Mel Brooks classic “History of the World Part I.”

“Year One” did have its fair share of bombs and misfires. Most comedies do. The movie perhaps took a few too many liberties with the low-brow humor. Bodily functions were overused at times and there was even a good old-fashioned human waste-eating scene (hey, at least I warned you).

Again, heed my words about what it takes to like this film. If you hate Jack Black or Michael Cera, then do yourself a favor and skip this one. But if Black, Cera, Ramis, Apatow and writers from “The Office” sound appealing, then this one definitely delivers.

2½ stars (out of 4)

STARRING: Jack Black and Michael Cera

DIRECTED BY: Harold Ramis

RATED: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence

RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 37 minutes

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