Caveman Zed (Jack Black, "King Kong," "Tropic Thunder") is good at neither hunting nor gathering, but that doesn't stop him from wanting to lay with Maya (Sarah Chalke lookalike June Diane Raphael). In order to impress her, he eats the forbidden fruit, for which he is banished from the tribe. His last act, an errant flaming arrow, burns down the house of his buddy Oh (Michael Cera, "Superbad," "Juno"), who reluctantly accompanies him to see what lies beyond the edge of the world in "Year One."
Director Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day," "The Ice Harvest"), who cowrote his story idea with "The Office" colleagues Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg, serves up some low brow humor in a fitful script, but his film is elevated into the ranks of pleasurably stupid humor by terrific comic turns from Cera and a game Oliver Platt ("The Ice Harvest," "Frost/Nixon") as a gross glam High Priest. This one will probably benefit in the viewing if accompanied by controlled substances.
"Year One" is essentially a string of skits skewering the more extreme passages of the Old Testament. As the caveman discover a more 'civilized' world, they're subjected to concepts like human sacrifice, circumcision and castrated eunuchs. Even orgies turn out to have their down sides.
Zed and Oh's first extratribal encounter is with arguing brothers Cain (David Cross, TV's "Arrested Development," "I'm Not There") and Abel (Paul Rudd, "Knocked Up," "Role Models"). After Cain bashes his brother's head repeatedly with a rock (in a bit of physical comedy that plays Pythonesque), he blackmails the cavemen to secrecy and becomes their albatross throughout the film. Cain dupes them into being sold at a slave market where they had hoped to save Maya and Oh's crush Eema (Juno Temple, "Atonement," "The Other Boleyn Girl") then recruits them into the Roman guard when they reach their destination (after a respite witnessing Abraham (Hank Azaria, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian") about to sacrifice Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, "Superbad," "Role Models"), then popularizing circumcision)). Things seem good in Sodom, until they see Eema slated as a virgin sacrifice and Oh is turned into a gold orgy 'statue' that the High Priest fancies. Meanwhile, Princess Inanna (Olivia Wilde, "Turistas," "Alpha Dog"), who is at moral odds with her stepfather the King (Xander Berkeley, "Sid and Nancy," "Taken") convinces Zed he is the Chosen One who can enter the Holy of Holies temple and not die. Zed finds Oh inside hiding from the High Priest and the two are arrested and slated for stoning in the town square.
Black is loud and manic and losing his leading man luster. It is interesting to note that while their are poop, pee, fart and puke jokes in this movie, Black has been saddled with the grossest and least funny while Cera makes a fart interlude bearable with his martyred, resigned irony and makes a pee joke a comic highlight of the film. Cera's low key delivery is priceless - if not for him this movie would be a mostly humorless slog. Oliver Platt is deliciously into playing the blue eye-shadowed, heavily eye-linered High Priest who, although his is the king's brother-in-law, may have numbered days. His reading of sheep offal is laugh-out-loud funny and his sexual perversities are just shy of endearing. That takes talent. Of the other supporting players, Cross plays Cain with a snaggle-toothed, goggle-eyed oblivion that takes the edge off his evil doings and Azaria chooses to play Abraham straight amidst the goofiness around him, which serves to underline the looniness of religious fervor. Mintz-Plasse is an anachronistic Isaac, just a familiar face. Wilde is fetching and cool while Raphael is fetching and warm (and amusing in a pre-sacrifice daze).
"Year One" is a mashup of films that have come before ("Caveman," "The History of the World, Pt. 1," "Being Human," "Monty Python's Life of Brian," etc.), but it has its own giggles and some pretty good gags in between the lame stretches.
Robin did not see this film.
and Ratings Archive | Airtimes
10 | Video
Reeling has been chosen as a Movie Review Query Engine Top Critic.