Year One - Movie Review


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Year One

I know I've seen worse movies than Year One, movies that involve Dan Aykroyd with a prosthetic phallic-esque nose, but Year One manages to be something entirely unappetizing, a film so lacking in effort or creative ingenuity that it simply putters along until it reaches a long enough running-time to qualify it as something to be put on display at a local dollar theater (where I eventually ended up seeing it). Yes, at times I did want to forfeit the two dollars I spent on this stone age journey and leave half-way through, but Year One is miraculous in how it manages to convince you that maybe, just maybe, something quite funny is lurking behind the next mountain. Well, I'm afraid the cavemen were correct in assuming that the world simply ended beyond that point.

Despite its title, Year One has no discernible time-line and plays predominantly upon anachronisms evident by its players. That is to say, the lead character Om, or Um, or whatever grunt he's called, is just Jack Black wearing a fur kilt. No effort on his part has been made to assume the role of a primitive cave man, and it seems that no one deemed it necessary. As a matter of fact, no one seems to have let any of the actors know when Year One was supposed to take place or how they were supposed to react to it. It's a certain shame concerning how hilarious many of these performers are otherwise.

In an early scene, Bill Hader makes an appearance as the town Shaman, and despite his layers of make-up and bone piercings, he's given no motivation. An out-take during the credits has him address the director, "Harold, what am I doing here?" I'm not really sure either. So many surprise roles go completely unnoticed due to this films utter lack of character, characters and characterization.

I've stated before my misgivings concerning that sweet-natured, fiancé-stealing Michael Cera. Here he shines as the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm liking him more and more, and here he puts forth a reasonable amount of effort. It's not nearly enough, but it gets a comparatively decent amount of laughs. Comparatively.

There are attempts at humor, but once a character is reduced to eating poo for the sake of a laugh, everything somehow looses its luster. To add insult, the film also makes an attempt to make a theological argument. What that argument is, I can't really say.

Let this be said, Year One has a really great plot device. It goes completely unused, but it's really pretty clever, and I don't mind ruining it because the film is already pretty well ruined. Jack Black and Michael Cera are on their way to the ancient city of Sodom to free two local cave-ladies from the chains of slavery. Stopping by Abraham's place they learn that in three days God is going to burn the whole city to a crisp. So they better get there fast, right?

I was really interested by that premise. Unfortunately the film gets it completely wrong. The three day time-frame is later removed, significantly lowering the tension. In addition to this, the film is pretty clear in insisting that God (despite his lightning bolts) doesn't exist, so why rush at all?

It's rare to see a film so narratively hindered by the fact that it lacks a fear of God. Here, it is so well exemplified I think it could be worth a study all on its own.

Otherwise, skip it.

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