Year One (2009)
I spent the entire time on the cycle home trying to think of another way to start this review other than this could be the worst comedy I’ve ever seen, but it appears I’ve failed. I’m probably being a bit harsh as I’ve seen a lot of really bad stuff in my time but Woody Allen once said “most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all” and that pretty much sums up Year One.
The movie starts in prehistoric times where we meet bumbling would be heroes Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) in their hunter/gatherer camp. Zed is quickly banished from the tribe for taking a bite of the ‘forbidden fruit’ in what is the first of many ridiculous set pieces. There is a distinctly ‘sketch’ like feel to the set ups aided by the exceptionally poor set and tackiness of the entire opening 15 minutes. One scene sees you confronted with prehistoric man eating a Biblically referenced fruit with a random snake ‘attack’ that all unfolds slower and more painfully than peeing with an inflamed prostate. It’s just a mess.
I think part of what makes this such a disappointment is knowing who is behind it. It’s an Apatow produced effort which I suppose explains a lot, but Superbad & Knocked Up were fine enough and Apatow’s TV series Freaks & Geeks was positively Shakespearean in comparison. The real kicker is the knowledge that Harold Ramis, genius behind Groundhog Day, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters is the driving force to Year One. I mean seriously, what the hell happened Harold? The jokes in this fall so flat I’m surprised the budget wasn’t blown on a monster truck.
Zed having been banished the duo wander off to discover the Earth isn’t flat, but instead presumably has portals through time, as they find themselves stumbling across Highland cow farmers Abel & Cain, before traveling to Sodom via Hebrews and some Roman chariots led by Vinnie Jones, as frighting prospect as it sounds. As if the stickle brick built narrative wasn’t bad enough, Zed & Oh‘s love interests are strung along in a completely tacked fashion popping up exactly where the main pair are with the poorest of explanations. All this combined with increasingly preposterous situations and bottom barrel jokes on race, sex, incest, lesbianism, poo, piss and bestiality leave you almost in pain. When I think about the razor sharp wit of Peter Venkman in the elevator scene from Ghostbusters and I compare it to a scene where Michael Cera is strung up upside down pissing down his down his own nose I just think ‘Oh dear God, what am I watching?’ or as fans of this film will likely be texting their friends ‘OMG WTF’.
This film has only two things going for it. Michael Cera still plays the awkward sidekick to absolute perfection and is the only person who comes close to doing or saying anything actually funny. He is completely restricted by the material however and seems to be pretty much running on autopilot throughout. I felt genuinely sorry for him in the latter scene as I know how much better he can be. Maybe he’ll find justice and get to be one of the new Ghostbusters with a script not built to choke the life out of the little comedy left in Ramis’ arsenal. The other bright spot is as shallow as Year One’s humour as with Olivia Wilde (’13’ in TVs House) we at least have something stunning to look at for the last half hour. Don’t expect any witty medical banter though as vagina euphamisms is as high as her dialogue rises, and not even Pete Venkman could make a joke out of that sorry fact.