Year One (Columbia Pictures, PG-13)

film_year-one_sm.jpgThere are several problems with the film, and at the top of that list is the main characters’ seeming lack of interest in most of the things that happen to them.

 

 

 

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Year One is the silly summer comedy you’ve been looking for. Almost. There’s comedic murder, bodily function gags, sexual innuendo, ridiculous chase scenes and humorous historical inaccuracies. Too bad the filmmakers didn’t seem to care enough to make any of this work together.

Zed (Jack Black) is a woefully inadequate hunter and Oh (Michael Cera) is his village gatherer friend. When Zed gets caught eating the forbidden fruit from The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he gets put out of the village, and Oh joins him on his quest to see what lies beyond their small world.

Year One doesn’t exactly have lofty aspirations, but it does have the ingredients for a perfect juvenile summer film. And where I would normally say that I don’t want to see the filmmakers trying to impress me, this movie could have used a good dose of…effort.

There are several problems with the film, and at the top of that list is the main characters’ seeming lack of interest in most of the things that happen to them. Cera and Black play things so cool and laid back that many of their conversations come off as boring, even when we know they’re supposed to be riotously funny. In fact, there’s only one moment in the movie that hit the uproarious laughter target. Everything else achieved only hushed giggles from the preview audience—not exactly the sign of a comedic tour-de-force. I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the writing or the directing (both led by Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters fame), but either way, the movie comes off as badly improvised and poorly planned.

For example, a couple of animal-attack gags are basically dropped, with little or no explanation. Well, sorry, but even in a purposefully goofy movie like this, when a diabolical carnivore attacks a couple of hapless doofuses, I need to know how they got away, even if the answer is silly. I’m forced to conclude that Ramis and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky had no idea how to end certain gags, so they just didn’t.

There is another major problem with Year One: Black and Cera are up to their old tricks again. Black is the unpredictable wild man with a good heart, and Cera is the put-upon, easily-flustered youngster who has no luck with women. I think this movie would have been infinitely more entertaining if the two leads had switched roles and stretched a bit. Even the idea of Cera playing a blustery, wanna-be ladies man is way funnier than Year One actually turned out to be. | Adrienne Jones

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