Sunday, October 25, 2009

Movie Review: Year One
Directed by Harold Ramis
Starring Jack Black, John Cera, David Cross

Year One marks Harold Ramis' return to the comedic director's chair for the first time ssince 2002's Analyze That. The comic legend's participation in any project is enough to garner attention, but it was the inclusion of a new generation of talent that caught the eye. While the setting of the film is unique, the real draw is seeing so many comic powerhouses put in front of the same camera and letting them bounce off of each other.

The story focuses on buds Zed (Black) and Oh, (Cera) who are exiled from their village of hunters and gatherers for eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There prehistoric road trip takes them through the earliest chapters of the book of Genesis, meeting Cain and Abel, Abraham and being sold into slavery in the city of Sodom. While a lot of history gets blended together, it's all used as a vehicle for the capable duo of Black and Cera.

While the film gets rolling quickly, with Jack Black's trademark style flying in full regalia, the chemistry between John Cera and Black really shows mobility. Whether or not the majority of their dialogue is written or improvised is either a testament to Ramis' script or the pair's lock-step approach to the characters.
Sadly, what starts out as quirky silliness descends into absolute stupidity before too long, and never picks itself back up. The jokes wear thin after too long and we are left hoping that another burst of genuine humor is going to slap us across the face, but it never comes. When the final object lesson/climax arrives we've strayed far enough off course that you pray for the end to come soon. What even gets worse is the desperate attempt at validity by injecting 21st century moral relativism into stories that most of us learned in Sunday school.

While Black and Cera are the film's stars, some of the most memorable characters and moments occur by the film's co-stars. David Cross plays Cain, who's recurring character is pretty funny, but the real hidden star in this film is Oliver Platt, who plays the high priest in the city of Sodom. Perhaps in another life he enjoyed existence as an opulent orgy-riddled upper-crust monarch, because he plays this role with such texture and color it's scary to think how easy he makes it seem.

For the copious amounts of crude humor and an over-all film quality that makes a steady decline this film is reserved only for late-night consumption on the cable networks.

Movie Grade: D

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