Review by Jack Foley
BIBLICAL comedy Year One would appear to have a lot going for it given that it boasts a cast including Jack Black and Michael Cera, as well as the director of Ghostbusters.
Unfortunately, the result is an unholy mess – a poorly scripted, lazily performed and largely unfunny exercise in juvenile humour that may struggle to engage even the simplest of minds.
Hunter-gatherers Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) are forced to embark on a road trip of discovery after being banished from their tribe for various misdemeanours.
The ensuing trip takes them through the ancient world and brings them into contact with feuding brothers Cain (David Cross) and Able (Paul Rudd), circumcision obsessed tribal leader Abraham (Hank Azaria) and a rogue Roman commander (Vinnie Jones) and his scheming High Priest (Oliver Platt).
Ramis claims his latest comedy was partly inspired by his decision to read the Old Testament as comedy in the wake of 9/11. It therefore places a contemporary consciousness in an ancient setting.
But it’s so poorly executed – and, dare I say, conceived – that anything remotely intelligent it’s trying to say is lost amid an endless succession of wee, poo and penis jokes.
Some gags are so over-milked they become redundant, while others – including an early scene involving Cera and a snake – aren’t even seen through.
In terms of performance, Black seems content to trot out another of his overly hysterical loser-types, but fails to inject the loveable into Zed, while Cera once again trades on the sensitive boy-next-door qualities that have served him so well in Superbad and Juno. Within the context of this Biblical setting, however, it feels tired and misplaced.
Ramis attempts to raise the laughter stakes by including several extended cameos from the likes of Platt, Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Hank Azaria but they can’t even breathe any life into the moribund screenplay.
Platt, to be fair, comes closest, as his camp High Priest does at least deliver some guilty pleasure laughs, but even then his portrayal is pandering to the worst gay stereotypes.
Rudd and Mitz-Plasse, meanwhile, are wasted in roles that are far too easily discarded, while David Cross is just plain irritating as the motor-mouthed Cain. Vinnie Jones just grunts as usual.
With rumours of a third Ghostbusters movie continually gathering momentum, Ramis will need to raise his game considerably to make it a worthwhile venture.
Year One is best summed up by a moment when Black’s character eats shit… the whole movie wreaks of bad taste and deserves the critical panning it’s undoubtedly going to get.
Running time: 100mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 2, 2009