I just wasted an hour and a half of my life watching perhaps the worst film I have seen in a long time, Year One. As a result, I refuse to spend much more time reviewing it!

Knowing very little about this film, beyond the fact that talented comedic actors Michael Cera and Jack Black were the main stars, dressed as cavemen, expectations were limited. I was open to be impressed however…

First mistake.

Second mistake: thinking to myself after 10 minutes, “heyyy, give it a chance”.

What a ripe pair. The fruit looks nice too.

Year One tells the story of bumbling duo Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera), unsuccessful hunter gatherers who fade entirely into the background of their tribe. This dubiously vague set up supposedly acts as a catalyst for what ensues. Within minutes of the opening credits rolling, Zed seeks out and eats ‘the forbidden fruit’ in a moment of biblical iconography that distresses. Please don’t shoe-horn some semblance of religious allegory in here, please Harold Ramis, not after your brilliant work on Groundhog Day!

Good news (not a pun, just a happy coincidence), religion isn’t unnecessarily squeezed into an odd corner of this film to add a ‘’deeper’’ layer of meaning – the whole thing is centred around it! What starts off as an uninspiring, poorly-written situational comedy, progresses (a word I use loosely) into an exploration of Old Testament history. In fact, that’s bollocks. Year One no more explores the themes, traditions, contradictions or religious controversy of the Old Testament than does the Westboro church explore San Francisco during Gay Pride. The biblical references (the Tree of Knowledge, Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac, Cain killing Abel) all function as nothing more than a method of establishing setting. Beyond single references to homosexuality, the gender and existence of God, and the nature of slavery, there is nothing intelligent enough to warrant a second thought. The trials our heroes go through only serve to promote the romantic conclusion at the end, an inconsequential conclusion at that.

Jack Black: Loud. Michael Cera: Meek. Typecast typecast typecast.

From the outset we are made unsubtly aware that our protagonists each have a love interest, forming some kind of predictable romantic thread that traverses the film. Yet, with little to no exploration of these desired relationships, the viewer is left with a feeling of sheer emotional detachment rendering them entirely apathetic as to whether the couples get it together by the end or not – though it was always guaranteed!

So that’s the premise slated, now for the acting. Black plays the role with typical gusto, but unfortunately is supplied with a character who is so unbelievably one-dimensional that he’d be far better suited to a three-cell Andy Capp strip than a Hollywood silverscreen comedy. Disastrously, particularly for Michael Cera, the accomplished actors are given roles that play exclusively to their typecasts: Zed is loud, oafish and undeservedly egotistical about his abilities and looks; Oh is a meek, mild-mannered teenager whose social awkwardness becomes a perpetual limitation. Sound like something you’ve seen before? Add to this forgettable cameo appearances from Vinnie Jones, Kyle Gass, Paul Rudd, and Chris Mintz-Plasse and you have a recipe for comedic failure.

Year One is a mixture of predicable slapstick comedy and unimpressive action sequences, all wrapped up in a severely undeveloped biblical theme. Simply put, it’s not clever enough to function as a religious parody, or funny enough to work well as a comedy. Instead of wasting your time with this flick, my suggestion is to watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian, an unparalleled success in both of these areas…

… or read the actual Old Testament. It’s more entertaining than watching Cera and Black deliver a poor script, and there’s no cockney interlude from Vinnie Jones. Win win.


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