Plenty of films can ride on the wave of hype that their stars create and require little else. Such a film was Year One, with its director being Harold Ramis and a cast comprised of Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Oliver Platt, Olivia Wilde…just to name a few. Yes this film had bus stop advertising and plenty of TV spots, but truth be told the concept and actors sold the film in of itself. Sadly word got out that the film was, in fact, very bad and as a result the $60 million film never made its budget back…even taking worldwide sales into account.
History was made…by these guys? Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are cavemen who stumble out of the mountains into an epic journey of biblical proportions. One’s a bumbling hunter, the other’s a gentle gatherer; together, they become unlikely participants in history’s most pivotal moments. Directed and co-written by comedy legend Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, Analyze This), YEAR ONE is rude, crude, wildly absurd, deliciously tasteless and laugh-out-loud funny!
Sometimes you run across a movie and wonder just what the hell went wrong. This is one of those movies and the entire time I was watching it I just wanted to laugh so badly. I wanted to feel the plight of the characters, I wanted to get into the story and I really, really just wanted to be entertained. At every turn, however, Year One put its foot down with an emphatic (and Biblical) “No!” Why don’t you want me to laugh at you, Year One? Your cast is made up of genuinely hilarious people who I would defend to no end. So why did you let me down so harshly?
There’s no real reason to this plot that I could see. It wanted to be some kind of Monty Python mash up and instead became…a complete failure in every sense of the word. What makes these kind of films work so well is the actors with superb improv ability that come in and just chew up and spit out the script. I know all of these actors are capable of doing such things, but none of them show it off here. There’s a small glint of it between Paul Rudd and David Cross, but other than that the rest of the films plays out like a comedy film that stuck to the script at every turn. How incredibly disappointing is that?
I’m just not sure where this film was trying to go with its cast. I mean it was such a massive and fantastic grouping that for it to turn into such a steaming pile at the end is really disheartening. Setting aside the fact the films synopsis is pretty wonked (they pretty much travel through a whole torrentload of civilizations during the course of the film), the overall message of the story is boring as well. Now if it had been peppered with genuinely funny comedy then that’s something you can overlook (I mean take a look at Caddyshack–how generic and simple was that story? It’s the performances that work in that one).
Honestly the only sequence I laughed at outside of the aforementioned Rudd/Cross bit was Cera’s character peeing on himself. And that’s just basic and incredibly crude humor; Jack Black farting for five minutes would’ve entertained me as well. Everything about this film just feels like a squandered opportunity; Olivia Wilde’s infatuation with Jack Black’s character seems odd as well, but I bought into it only because it kept Wilde on screen long enough to make up for the shirtless Black.
Overall Year One is a very disappointing mess. I’m a fan of just about every actor that appeared in this film (and I only just now made the Arrested Development connection with Cross and Cera…how sad is that? The film wiped my memory that much…) and not a single one of them made this film worth watching. Heed the advice of critics and those you know that saw this movie: just Skip It. You’ll be thankful you saved the hour and a half.
This film was released in a smattering of DVD and Blu-ray editions but I was given the single disc theatrical DVD (aka the bottom of the food chain) to review. I was given the chance to view the unrated version before writing this review and my original consensus stays the same: it’s a crap film. The packaging for this single disc DVD edition is the usual amaray case without any inserts. Video is what you’d expect from a new production everything looks as it should. Audio is a DD5.1 mix that is mostly front focused, being a comedy and all, but there are the occasional surround bits with crowds and whatnot.
Commentary with Director Harold Ramis, Jack Black,and Michael Cera
Deleted Scenes (4:14)
Extended & Alternate Scenes (14:39)
Gag Reel (6:44)
Year One: The Journey Begins (17:52)
I was actually excited to listen to the commentary track but once I got into it I realized something awful: the three men participating thought this film was funny. Crap! Now I’ll just…yup, the entire track is them laughing at the film. It’s an incredibly dull and uninspiring commentary and when they talk about making a sequel I cringe slightly. I surmise that the film was a blast to make…it just wasn’t a blast to watch. The Line-O-Rama and Gag Reel’s are hilarious to watch as always, however, so those who are a fan of those Judd Apatow staples should be pleased.
Overall Year One is a boring and laughless film with more laughs on the DVD extras. Not surprising—it’s a talented cast. They had to make somebody laugh at some point. Rent It.
Year One is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.