What happened to Harold Ramis? The director of "Caddyshack," the writer of "Stripes," and co-writer of "Ghostbusters," one of the cleverest and most underrated scripts ever written. How did he end up co-writing and directing a movie with Michael Cera, Jack Black, and a host of other very talented actors...that's just so bad? In the almost 24 hours since watching "Year One" my feelings on the film have gone from bad to worse. There was so much potential here. So what happened?
"Year One" is a look at biblical and ancient history through a comedic (well attempted comedic) lens. Zed (Jack Black) is the worst hunter in his village, while his only real friend, Oh (Michael Cera) is a shy gatherer with a crush on Zed's sister Eema (Juno Temple). Zed wants to do something special, something important. Mostly he wants to impress Maya (June Diane Raphael). He decides to find the Tree of Knowledge and eat an apple from it. "It has sort of a knowledgy taste," he declares. But it also has "a forbidden taste," so when his fellow villagers find out, Zed is banished and forced to roam the earth. His exit doesn't help anyone though when he accidentally burns the village down upon leaving. Oh reluctantly joins him while Eema and Maya are captured by a slave master.
The opening is a bit slow but there was a sense that once Zed and Oh embarked on their journey the story (and hopefully the comedy) were going to pick up. Sadly, it never really does. Their meeting with Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd) has the potential to be a comedic home run. Instead it's more like a weak single trickling past the second baseman. It's kind of funny but not nearly as much as it ought to be. Still, it ends up being one of the best scenes in all of "Year One." Most gags feel flat, rarely hitting their target. Black and Cera try but they have very little to work with. Not even Hank Azaria and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin) as Abraham and Isaac can liven things up. The script by Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, and Lee Eisenberg is incredibly weak. It didn't help that virtually everyone involved with the making of "Year One" kept trying to compare it to Monty Python's "Life of Brian." Where "Brian" was a smart and very funny satire that had something to say, "Year One" is a series of lazy poop and penis jokes that lack imagination. The fact that Stupnitsky and Eisenberg have been hired to write "Ghostbusters III" now concerns me greatly.
"Year One" is a tremendous disappointment involving a whole lot of people who must have known on some level that this just wasn't up to snuff. This is one to avoid. 3/10.
To wash the taste out of my mouth, here's a clip from "Life of Brian":