Vail movie review: ‘Year One’ is only half as good as it should be
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –About half way through “Year One” I realized I was the only one laughing out loud through most of the movie. This raised some concern on my part. Are my standards really that low? I don’t know, but “Year One” proves that I will laugh at people farting and eating poop until the day I die.
“Year One” uses a revisionist’s history of mankind to build its plot. Jack Black plays the obnoxious Zed, a wannabe hunter in a prehistoric tribe, while Michael Cera plays it straight as Oh, a gatherer who isn’t very good at his job, either. The two are viewed as outcasts by the rest of the tribe and after eating the forbidden fruit from a tree in the village, the two are forced to strike out on their own in a world they know nothing about. At this point, the movie’s plot takes so many ludicrous turns and introduces so many characters that it almost feels more like a collection of sketches than one cohesive film.
Our two heroes bump into Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd) from the Bible and we see the first murder in history as Abel is hilariously bludgeoned to death by his brother. There’s a scene where Zed and Oh take their first cross-country road trip in a wooden wagon that gets some laughs. Then they run into Abraham (Hank Azaria) as he’s about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). They eventually visit the cursed city of Sodom, which is portrayed more as an ancient Las Vegas than the doomed sinner’s den I learned about in Sunday school. Eventually they end up leading a rebellion against the religious leaders of the town while simultaneously rescuing the kidnapped members of their old tribe in a mock up of “The Ten Commandments.”
“Year One” is the kind of movie that can’t win even though it should. There’s nothing overtly wrong with it, instead, a bevy of little things keep it from being all it could have been.
For starters this movie should have been rated R. But for some reason, director Harold Ramis (“Groundhog Day,” “Vacation”) opted to tone it down for the mass PG-13 audience. When you’ve got movies like “The Hangover” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” becoming instant classics, you’ve got to step up your game.
The stars themselves could also be viewed as a weakness, although I thought they had great chemistry. But if you don’t like Black and Cera playing the same role they always play, there’s little hope you’ll buy a ticket.
Many of the supporting roles are wasted as well. Paul Rudd shows up for only a few seconds and gets nothing to work with. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is sorely underused, too. But many of the supporters get a lot of laughs and some nearly steal the show. David Cross shines as the sneaky Cain and Oliver Platt plays a flamboyant, ultra-hairy high priest to ridiculous delight.
But it’s obvious that many of the gags and dialogue weren’t taken as far as they could have been and that’s what hurts the film the most. There were plenty of little laughs along the way but the big laughs that make a movie memorable were almost nonexistent (except for the parts where Cera pees on his own face and gives Platt a hot oil rub down). I’m sure when the DVD of “Year One” is released it will feature an un-rated director’s cut that will include much of what was left out to please the MPAA, and that’s probably the best way to view it.
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