Year One
dir Harold Ramis
scr Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
with Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Oliver Platt, Vinnie Jones, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hank Azaria, Olivia Wilde, June Diane Raphael, Juno Temple, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd
release US 19.Jun.09, UK 26.Jun.09
09/US Columbia 1h37
Year One
Goofy and goofier: Black and Cera

cross platt jones
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Year One The filmmakers and cast find a few great laughs in this flimsy premise, but the whole film is so underdeveloped that it hardly seems to be up there on screen at all.

In a prehistoric woodland village, the goof-off Zed (Black) isn't a very good hunter, while the smart-but-shy Oh (Cera) isn't the best gatherer. After breaking the community's one rule, they're banished, heading off over the mountains. There they run into the biblical world, linking up with Cain (the hilariously slippery Cross), Abraham (Azaria) and Isaac (Mintz-Plasse) on the way to Sodom to rescue their enslaved semi-girlfriends (Raphael and Temple). But a nasty soldier (Jones), scheming princess (Wilde) and flamboyant high priest (Platt) are in their way.

This hodgepodge of random elements from prehistory has a kind of freewheeling charm. There's absolutely no discipline on display from the screenwriters; logic was no consideration at all. And Ramis' direction is equally choppy. Many scenes feel oddly truncated just before the punchlines, leaving the film to lurch awkwardly from scene to scene like a sketch comedy show. Which is essentially what this is, right to the closing credits out-takes.

Black and Cera actually manage to find some real humour in here, as do most supporting cast members. The subtler gags and deranged dialog are much more entertaining than the broad, half-hearted slapstick or the constant stream of bodily fluid jokes. But for every solid laugh, 10 others fall flat. And none of the set pieces are carried to a memorable conclusion.

But there's clearly a much more interesting comedy buried in here somewhere, as the premise touches on how loners feel isolated by society, including the beginnings of an existential quest. ("There must be more to life," says Zed. "I can barely cope with this much," replies Oh.) But the writers seem to think that one joke is enough and move on. They similarly use big issues like justice, sexuality and slavery as mere gags without mining any comic potential. And as the fragmented plot takes over, the film starts to feel rather tedious. It's a passable way to spend 97 minutes, but only just.

cert 12 themes, violence, language, innuendo 22.Jun.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall