‘Year One’ at Top of Bad Summer Movies
If you've ever had the desire to see Jack Black eat fecal matter or Michael Cera urinate in his own face, then by all means go see "Year One." Everyone else should avoid this parody of Bible stories like, well, a biblical plague.
Besides being gross, the film is also sluggishly paced and lifeless. Unfunny gags drag on endlessly, actors mug for the camera in desperate attempts to get laughs and the movie lurches from one skit to another without much reason.
Worse, writer-director Harold Ramis ("Caddyshack" and "National Lampoon's Vacation") lifts entire scenes from "Monty Python's Life of Brian" — most prominently Python's classic gag about a public stoning — with one big difference: "Year One" isn't remotely funny.
The thin plot follows slacker Neanderthals Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) who are banished from their tribe after they are caught eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
That banishment sends them on the road, where they meet several characters from Old Testament stories. The boys meet Abraham (Hank Azaria) and his unfortunate son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) as well as Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), finally ending up in the ancient city of Sodom.
The visit to Sodom, of course, sets up a series of increasingly unfunny gags about sodomy and homosexuality, leading to the unappealing sight of Cera's character rubbing down a very hairy fey pagan priest (Oliver Platt, shamelessly overacting) with oil. Shudder.
To give credit where it's due, "Year One" does have one brief funny scene revolving around the Neanderthals' struggle with the concept of circumcision. But one laugh in a 97-minute movie isn't a good batting average.
Even under the best circumstances — see the mostly entertaining "The School of Rock" or "Nacho Libre" for example — Black's manic screen persona can be annoying. When he's allowed to run wild and riff, he's insufferable. Here he squarely falls into the latter category. The movie is full of scenes that feel like Black is ad-libbing.
Surprisingly, the usually charming Cera is equally annoying. His screen persona —halting, nerdy, awkward, sarcastic but sweet — is getting old. He basically plays Paulie Bleeker from "Juno" in a loincloth.
The contrast between Black's mania and Cera's low-key shyness just don't work together. It's as if the two actors are in a different movie.
So in the end, "Year One" falls into the same category as such awful films as Dudley Moore's "Wholly Moses!" and Ringo Starr's "Caveman": Prehistoric comedies that time should definitely forget.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence.