SMSM ’09 No. 15: Year One

June 29, 2009

year one

Well, it’s official. I’ve come down with a serious case of the Michael Cera fatigue. Perhaps I was later to the party than everyone else, but I’m here now and it feels just fine.

You see, I had pretty high hopes for Year One, a “prehistoric” comedy starring Cera and Jack Black, another actor I’d still been hanging on to even though everyone else seems to have passed him by. Director Harold Ramis frames his film as a buddy comedy and a travelogue sprawling from a society of hunter-gatherers through a timeline-irrelevant book of Genesis.

In doing so, Ramis misses a number of opportunities to pin down a workable comic framework. For all its comparisons to Mel Brooks’s History of the World Part I, Year One really has very little in common. Ramis’s tone is not quite as silly as Brooks’s; while Year One is fairly screwball (Cera at one point pisses on his own face, as an example), one doesn’t get a sense that the comedy is really carefree. On the flipside, Year One also lacks any kind of depth. Ramis is swimming in a far out to sea here, and finds neither ship nor shore. Should he aim for some kind of postmodern buddy laugher, and let Black and Cera play to the setting, or should he ditch all agenda and go for the Brooks style non sequiturs? If he’d chosen either option, he would have had something better than what turned up on screen. Instead, he has a schizophrenic “comedy” with no jokes to speak of.

It’s not all Ramis’s fault, of course. There’s also the fact that the two leads don’t deliver any more than anyone would have expected from them, and for a pair of actors with histories of being completely non-versatile, the writing is on the wall. If Year One is any indication, both Cera and Black are about to see the bad side of Hollywood Darwinism.

But even excepting Cera, Black, and Ramis’s failings, there likely wouldn’t be much to salvage in Year One. The problems seem systematic; it’s all premise and no planning, no execution. David Cross is misused, Paul Rudd is near-absent, a subplot involving Hank Azaria and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (as Abraham and Isaac) is unnecessary, Oliver Platt’s character is a disgusting grotesque. Even the sound effects in this movie are shitty.

It’s a shame when you make Land of the Lost look good by comparison.

Film: Year One
Director: Harold Ramis
Stars: Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Olivia Wilde, June Raphael, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd

Viewing situation: Weekday matinee, small crowd; digital projection
My grade (out of 10): 2
Rotten Tomatoes average: 18%

Next up: The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09. Check out the full list to date here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s