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Movie Review: Year One (2009)

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The only thing worse than the jokes are the wigs in Year One, a purported prehistoric comedy that does close to nothing with the concept.

The only gags that even elicit much of a reaction are uninspired scatological fare, and co-stars Jack Black and Michael Cera are too busy performing their signature styles — Black incessantly mugs for the camera and Cera bumbles awkwardly — to riff off each other. They might as well be in separate movies.
Fortunately they’re not, as there aren’t nearly enough good ideas in the script by director Harold Ramis and The Office scribes Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg to fill just the one.

The whole thing is rather lazily constructed, from the terrible long-haired wigs (especially Cera’s) to the slapped together plot that’s basically an amalgam of various biblical characters and locations. Cain and Abel apparently coexist with Abraham and Isaac, and most of the film’s action takes place at a vaguely Babylonian/Roman conception of the city of Sodom.

There are certainly opportunities for parody here, and the film sort of explores them, but hey, watching Black eat human feces is a lot more fun, right?

Black and Cera star as Zed and Oh, a pair of villagers in a hunter-gatherer society. Neither is particularly gifted at their post in life, but unfortunately, there are only two jobs to choose from.

Zed pines for Maya (June Diane Raphael, Bride Wars) and Oh longs for Eema (Juno Temple, The Other Boleyn Girl), but they’re both losers and don’t stand a chance.

The two are forced to flee the village when Zed clumsily sets it on fire, and thus begins their adventure in an ancient land where they’ll meet all sorts of interesting characters (read: familiar comedic actors doing their obligatory cameo spots, and also in bad wigs).

David Cross is Cain, Paul Rudd is Abel, Hank Azaria is Abraham and Christopher Mintz-Plasse is Isaac.

The specifics of these characters are unimportant — the writers seemed to be more concerned with putting recognizable faces in iconic roles than actually giving them anything to do; I’m not going to try to do more than that.

Eventually, most everyone ends up in Sodom, where Zed and Oh’s fellow villagers have been enslaved. The film fortunately picks up a little comedic steam around this point, thanks mostly to a hilariously cringe inducing turn from Oliver Platt as a very hairy high priest.

But even that gag grows tired quickly, and as Zed and Oh fight for the women they love — two woefully underdeveloped love interests — it just becomes an exercise in holding on until the final credits roll.

Year One certainly isn’t unbearable; it’s just utterly mediocre and uninspired. Maybe this stuff would’ve been funny in prehistoric times. Now? Not so much.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.
  • Ouch, what a waste!

  • Thank You for this great review, I love these kinda movies and I am thinking of watching it whenever possible.