reviewed by Marc Glassman
Harold Ramis, director, co-producer; and co-writer with Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg. Judd Apatow, co-producer. Starring: Jack Black (Zed), Michael Cera (Oh), Oliver Platt (High Priest), David Cross (Cain), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Isaac), Vinnie Jones (Sargon), Hank Azaria (Abraham), Juno Temple (Eema), Olivia Wilde (Princess Inanna), June Diane Raphael (Maya)
It must be summertime. The silly season is upon us. You know the drill this time of year: if you’re going out on a date, you can see a comedy, a thriller or a big blockbuster sci-fi or commix inspired action flick. What? You’re over 30? Hmm…well, there is a documentary and a little indie film playing at the smallest venues in the local Cineplex.
Of course, you can be over 30 or even 50 and enjoy the new Judd Apatow comedy Year One—provided you’re accompanied by a kid. Yep. We Zoomers have reached a new level of accompaniment; as teens, we had to find adults to take us to serious movies and now, if we want to see something mainstream, it’s advisable to go with someone much younger who will appreciate what’s going on—and possibly explain it to you.
In the interests of science and proper film reviewing, I took my daughter Rachael to see Year One. She’s 22 and was bound to get the jokes. Besides, we both loved Jack Black in High Fidelity—Ok, that was years ago—and in the band Tenacious D and as a star in King Kong. And Michael Cera was awfully good in Juno, that American comedy, which should be Canadian—after all, both Cera and Ellen Page are Canucks. But I digress.
What about the movie? Well, it’s pretty dumb and would be quite offensive towards organized religion if you could take it seriously. I watched Rachael and much of the audience out of the corner of my eye while following the action on screen. It wasn’t hard to do since the plot and the jokes were orchestrated in the most obvious manner possible; walking and chewing gum is far more difficult. There were a few mild laughs along the way but not many out and out chortles and nary a guffaw.
What saves the film, making it mildly entertaining throughout, is the relationship between Jack Black and Michael Cera. Black, big, bulky and the inevitable hedonist, is well matched with the thin, gawky, dead pan Cera. They play effortlessly off each other, reminding one of a 21st Century Laurel and Hardy. And that’s high praise, indeed.
They start off as a couple of cavemen named Zed and Oh. When Zed accidentally burns down part of the village, he’s given the boot by his tough brethren—and his friend Oh accompanies him into the outside world. There, they run into Cain killing Abel and Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac to his God. Pretty soon, the caveman duo head off to Sodom and Gomorrah for “some action.” And there, they find their cave girl love interests Maya and Eema, who have been sold into slavery since their Stone Age existence was destroyed.
There’s more plot and characters: a gay High Priest; a lusty, duplicitous Princess and a great Famine among others. True followers of the Bible could be horrified by the portrayal of some the major characters in the Old Testament–and the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah undergoes a radical revision.
But who will take Year One seriously? Not I, says the aging film critic. Will the film work with a younger audience? Rachael wasn’t thrilled but thought it was Ok. Probably Year One will do well for a few weeks—until the next Harry Potter comes along.