Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence, 90 minutes
This summer has been a mixed bag for comedies. The modestly budgeted "The Hangover" has stormed the box-office recently to become a sleeper hit, but the lame $100 million Will Ferrell vehicle "Land of the Lost" crashed and burned in the same time period. The prehistoric buddy comedy "Year One" starring "Tropic Thunder’s" Jack Black and "Superbad’s" Michael Cera is another tediously unfunny and mostly offensive misfire that should join "Land of the Lost" in the circle of this summer’s big movie flops. On paper this should work – with the seemingly inspired casting of Black and Cera and the direction by comedic veteran Harold Ramis (of "Ghostbusters") - yet it comes across as an overlong, cheap skit full of bad hair and worse costumes.
The set up for "Year One" is all too simple. Black is Zed, Cera is Oh, two ancient village idiots who are cast out of their village after causing trouble. On their journey, they run into the likes of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac and more before they end up in Sodom and Gomorrah, where the two are mistakenly assumed to be “the chosen one” that will deliver the land from drought and famine. Somewhere along the way, this is supposed to be funny and while there are a few tidbits of humorous lines and moments, the rest of "Year One" falls way, way flat.
In a nutshell, "Year One" stinks - an overwhelmingly sloppy, mediocre production that Hollywood seems to churn out these days. On one hand is the sheer affability of its two stars and it’s true the zany Black and the deadpan Cera work well together, but on the other hand nothing else really works. The few amusing moments and funny lines there are don’t add up to a great movie (Black: “You could be my right hand man.” Cera: “I’ve seen what you do with your right hand. No, thank you.”) – the rest is so badly pieced and strung together there isn’t much to go on. "Year One" certainly won’t win awards for its cheesy sets, hair or costumes – Cera in particular looks like a pre-teen girl – the studio backlot has never looked so slipshod.
If "Year One" was even mildly funny, which it isn’t, you could overlook the blatantly sacrilegious, pointless and low-brow script from Ramis, not to mention his careless, misguided direction. He basically lets Black – who much like Ferrell is growing tremendously overrated by the minute – run amok in his wild, zany antics that grow tiresome after about 3 minutes. And some of "Year One’s" scenes just don’t work – in particular the woeful Cain and Abel sequence that utterly wastes two gifted comedic actors in David Cross and an all-too-brief cameo from Paul Rudd. Even worse is any scene with the usually funny character actor Oliver Platt, who’s basically unwatchable in garish makeup and a ridicously bloated costume.
Had "Year One" had a better script and director, it might have worked a little better than the mess it ends up being. Some truly gross-out moments that’s becoming too common for current movies like this don’t help either: Cera urinates on himself, Black eats crap (and not in the figurative sense), not exactly the type of thing that generates laugh-out loud moments. As if there weren’t anything better to put in the film, it ends with outtakes and bloopers, some of which are funnier than the actual movie.
If you’re looking for a good outing at the movies this summer, "Year One" isn’t it. Black or Cera fans may show up out of curiosity the first week of release, but they’ll be sorely disappointed when they discover what a lousy movie it is. Stay far away.