It has often been said that a film is not simply the sum of its parts. Well in “Year One”, starring Jack Black and Michael Cera, featuring a slew of star cameos, and directed by Harold Ramis, this is proven true. This not very funny comedy is not simply the sum of its parts. It’s much less. We know Jack Black can be funny. We know Michael Cera can be funny. We know Harold Ramis can write, direct AND be funny. However, these talents just fail to add up and as a consequence, “Year One” is not only a bit of an incomprehensible mess, it’s also not funny. Hit the jump for the rest of my review.
Film begins in a small prehistoric village where Black and Cera are a frustrated hunter and a passable gatherer (respectively) and both fancy female tribe members that have their eyes on more potent men. This is the best part of the flick, as most of the jokes work and the premise is actually used to comedic effect. This doesn’t last, however, as the two unlikely heroes are soon cast out of the village and begin a journey across the ancient world, meeting various Old Testament characters along the way and ultimately saving the day and winning the hearts of their respective lady loves. The issue is that none of what happens during this adventure is particularly funny, and cameos from usually hilarious actors like Paul Rudd as Abel, David Cross as Cain, and even Hank Azaria as Abraham, don’t get any jokes. Paul Rudd barely does anything other than act out a really poorly staged physical “comedy” routine with Cross, and Hank Azaria makes repeated circumcision jokes. Not everything in the film is bad, though. If you like Jack Black and Michael Cera, they certainly have their moments, particularly in the film’s opening. Also, June Diane Raphael, who some may remember from her roles in both “Flight of the Conchords” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, and Juno Temple are cute and funny as the love interests for the protagonists. Vinnie Jones is funny as a City Guard in Sodom, mainly because it’s Vinnie Jones and seeing him just makes you laugh. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is in this. She’s really hot.
The biggest problem with this flick, aside from the meandering narrative that suddenly develops a lethal case of plot in the last half hour and the completely wasted potential of most of its stars, is the editing. I don’t mean editing that’s too quick, or is jumpy or jolting, I mean editing that simply fails to coherently tell the story. Here’s an example of what I mean: Early in the film, Zed and Oh (Black and Cera’s characters) are in a garden and Zed decides to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. After doing so, and discussing how the fruit has a “knowledgey taste” Cera’s Oh finds a python at his feet that slowly begins to wrap around him, until it finally encircles his head. Cut to the next shot, and Oh and Zed are bombing around the village, perfectly fine, and there is never a mention of the snake. You can’t do that. I guess we can assume that Zed did something to save Oh, but what?
With all that said, the disc itself is pretty good. The picture transfer and sound weren’t awe inspiring, but still decent for a comedy. The blu ray also offers a choice between the theatrical version of the film and an unrated director’s cut that has some extra dialogue but fixes none of the film’s problems. There is a commentary track available with Ramis, Cera, and Black discussing the film that at times can be entertaining and enlightening, but it’s mostly just Black trying to make up for how tired or bored both Ramis and Cera sound. The best features are probably the gag reel and the “Line-O-Rama” that has become standard on these Apatow-esque DVD’s. There is also a fairly standard Making Of documentary, and a few amusing little features called “Sodom’s Got ’em!” and “Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom”, and some cool BD-Live content as well.
Long story short, this flick isn’t very good, and that’s a shame when you consider the pedigree it has going for it. But, if you saw it and liked it, then the blu ray disc is definitely worth picking up.