Posted by: Alan | November 2, 2009

Review: Year One (2009)

year-one

Year One

Director: Harold Ramis

Writer: Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg

Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Juno Temple, June Raphael

Rating:

It’s been a long time since I’ve found myself laughing uncontrollably from a movie, and the more comedies spewed out by the money grubbing studios the more I lose interest in the genre. I remember a time when I would get excited about comedies, and lately I mostly get upset. Here we have Year One, a ‘buddy comedy’ set in, well, Year One. Jack Black and Michael Cera play the same characters they’ve always played with longer hair and embark on a road trip/adventure/self discovery quest when they are exiled from their tribe. That’s…pretty much the gist of the story. The rest of the movie is filled with anachronisms, allegories, and alliterations (see what I did there) that ultimately just create a jumbled mess of a movie with nothing redeemable about it.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what Harold Ramis was trying to accomplish with this film. I mean, he’s put out some legitimately good comedies in the past (Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters; the latter he did not direct but co-wrote), and you’d think he’d understand that this kind of movie doesn’t work. I mean, it’s set in Year One, okay, sure. But already from the get-go you’re taking it out of the realm of reality. That’s fine, there are plenty of absurdist comedies that succeed brilliantly. But the difference here is everyone acts like this is modern times. I understand you couldn’t have them just grunting the whole time, but the things they talk about and reference are so obviously winks to the audience that it makes it less funny.

There are so many talented people in this movie that are completely wasted. Hank Azaria ranting and raving about circumcision and Oliver Platt rubbing oil all over himself become annoying rather than funny. They took these biblical characters and made them caricatures to make them ‘funny’ but it’s so stale and overdone that there’s no point to it. In addition, Jack Black and Michael Cera seem to be just phoning this in and bring nothing new to the table. They are both funny. But they aren’t playing characters anymore, they’re playing ‘Jack Black the Zany Actor’ and ‘Michael Cera the Awkward Teen’ caveman edition. Because of that you can’t feel for these characters at all, and I don’t care if it’s a comedy damnit, I want some goddamn pathos.

Not only that, but everyone knows that in every comedy there HAS to be a romance subplot. Because that’s what the people want to see! Right? Well, no. It’s fine to have a romance subplot in any film, but you can’t just tack it on top of the whole story to give some kind of denouement to the characters. This movie has the most unbelievable and unlikely romance story in any film I’ve ever seen. Both Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) are smitten with Maya and Eema, respectively. Throughout the whole movie, both women show absolutely no interest in these bumbling fools (except perhaps a brief scene at the beginning where Maya seems to find Zed charming), until the end of the film when both seem to do a complete 180 and fall in love with them. This does happen in other films, I suppose, but there is usually some kind of progression or some turning point where someone realizes they have feelings for the hero, or something to that effect. This movie just tacks it on in the end to give Michael Cera an awkward love making scene.

Which reminds me, this movie basically seems to be Prehistoric Superbad. Not only is there the aforementioned scene, but the Cera/goofy chubby guy combo is the main draw, and the pursuit of romance is their motivation. On top of that, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who played the doomed to be popular but hated ‘McLovin’) shows up at one point and joins the duo for a while. As I watched the three of them converse I couldn’t believe how similar this was to Superbad, but unfortunately, as I stated earlier, Superbad was based in reality. Which I think is ultimately the reason it didn’t work. It’s the (pre-Kung Fu Panda) Dreamworks syndrome: Taking a fantastical story/idea and trying to base it in OUR reality. Shark Tale had underwater cities, the fish acted like people. Compared to Finding Nemo where the coral reefs and realistic elements of the sea were adapted to BE city-like.

The same thing happens here. They take a fantastical plot and put very modern and realistic characters/ideas into it. It becomes a gimmick rather than an enjoyable story. And in the end, the story matters.

– Alan

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Responses

  1. I hope I didn’t catch any implied jabs at Superbad there Alan, because that movie is near and dear to my heart!

    Good review. I had no desire at all to see this movie and…still do not.

    Oh! And Hollywood! Don’t you care about the comic environment? You need to conserve Michael Cera! He’s a precious resource and we’re all going to get sick of him if he’s in every comedy! Maybe give Jesse Eisenberg some of his parts. He’s good! If you keep up like this he’ll just become some sad caricature of his former self…just like…well…Jack Black.

  2. I love Superbad, and there was no jabs intended at that film, but more at the fact that once Movie A becomes popular, movies B, C, D, X, and Q need to be modeled after it.


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