June 18, 2009

Year One

Slaves to Apatow movie hell

Grade: D

Director: Harold Ramis

Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, and David Cross

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Year One is to Life of Brian, its ostensible cinematic inspiration, as Monty Python’s titular Nazarene is to his Messianic stable-mate: a pale imposter. When the book is written on bad Jack Black comedies or the first major misstep in Michael Cera’s nascent career, this misguided, humorless disaster – more akin to bad Abrahams and Zucker than Mel Brooks – will be chapter one.

As inept tribesmen banished from their home village for sampling from the Tree of Knowledge (if only the filmmakers had dined at that table…), Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) begin a loose jaunt through the Book of Genesis, sparking everything from the fratricide of Cain (David Cross) to Abraham (Hank Azaria) sparing his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) from sacrifice to indulging in the pleasures and perils of Sodom. Their goal, such as it is, centers around freeing themselves and their would-be objects of affection, Maya (June Diane Raphael) and Eema (Juno Temple), from slavery.

Just as Zed and Oh wander the wilderness, so too does Year One meander aimlessly through one half-baked sketch after another. Ignoring the wit and satire all but smacking him straight in his face, director Harold Ramis falls back on anachronisms and a steady stream of scatology. You know, the usual: Feces, urine, flatulence, testicles, and a glut of gay gags.

With Cera, McLovin, Bill Hader in blackface, and an uncredited Paul Rudd as the doomed Abel, this rotten tomato is a Jonah Hill walk-on away from an Apatow family reunion. Sadly, Apatow accepts a producer credit for this mistake, but the most amazing thing is that its bottom-barrel script was penned by two regulars for The Office, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. Too schlocky to be good and too charmless to be a cult classic, this is an unimaginative misfire that its stars would be well-advised to instantly scrub from their resumes. Black and Cera spout off a funny line here and there, but poor editing, writing, and staging steer Year One into very primitive territory.

Neil Morris

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