Directed by Harold Ramis. Starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Cross, Olivia Wilde, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, Vinnie Jones. (2009, PG-13, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 26, 2009
Slayer was right: God hates us all. How else to explain this blasphemously asinine and crudely scatological buddy pic so obsessed with bodily discharge that it makes Pasolini's Salò look like an episode of Full House? What's even more depressing than the never-ending stream of sub-sixth-grade toilet humor is the sad fact that Year One is helmed and co-produced by two of the best laughmeisters in the business. Director Ramis has bona fide classics Caddyshack, Stripes, and Groundhog Day to his credit, and producer Judd Apatow would still be a legend even if he had abandoned comedy for the priesthood following Freaks and Geeks. Year One reimagines the Book of Genesis as a warped Hope and Crosby comic travelogue – The Road to Sodom – minus the class and Dorothy Lamour and with Black and Cera playing to type in pre-Darwinian variations of their respective obnoxious oaf and wide-eyed naif roles. Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera), predictably inept hunter-gatherers, are banished from their tribe after Zed dines on the proverbial forbidden fruit and takes it on the lam, trudging through prehistory from one biblical high point (Cain and Abel's filial tiff) to another (Azaria's Abraham, in the film's only truly inspired bit). Black's Zed is little more than a horn-dog riff on Ringo Starr's turn in 1981's Caveman, while Cera barely registers throughout. Read literally, the Old Testament is, of course, notoriously X-rated. Awash in bestiality, rape, pedophilia, murder, and overall seaminess, the whole sordid tale has proved to be a blast with religions worldwide, but Year One co-scribes Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, and Lee Eisenberg somehow manage to leech all the inherently subversive fun out of the whole thing. The end result has you pining for the days when the Catholic Church could be offended enough to declare war on both Monty Python's Life of Brian and Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary. The only people who should be peeved enough to raise hell about Year One are the viewers who had to pay to sit through it.