On his latest expedition, Dr. Rick Marshall is sucked into a space-time vortex alongside his research assistant and a redneck survivalist. In this alternate universe, the trio make friends with a primate named Chaka, their only ally in a world full of dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures.
Zed, a prehistoric would-be hunter, eats from a tree of forbidden fruit and is banished from his tribe, accompanied by Oh, a shy gatherer. On their travels, they meet Cain and Abel on a fateful day, stop Abraham from killing Isaac, become slaves, and reach the city of Sodom where their tribe is now enslaved. Zed and Oh are determined to rescue the women they love, Maya and Eema. Standing in their way is Sodom's high priest and the omnipresent Cain. Zed tries to form an alliance with Princess Innana, which may backfire. Can an inept hunter and a smart but slender and diffident gatherer become heroes and make a difference?Written by
OK first let's take a quick paragraph to analyze the history of successful comedy duos. There's Abbot & Costello: a simple-minded clown (Costello) and his more-intelligent, straitlaced keeper (Abbott). Then there's Martin & Lewis: another simple-minded clown (Lewis) and his more intelligent, suave keeper (Martin). Laurel & Hardy: same formula. Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirley, Ren & Stimpy, the list goes on. This successful pattern, with minor variations, repeats itself through the years. The clown is always kept in line by his/her more intelligent & responsible keeper.
Here we have a switcheroo. With Black & Cera, the idiot (Jack Black) is in charge, while the smart one (Cera) is taking orders. The dynamic, especially with the extreme opposite personalities of Black & Cera (outgoing vs. introverted), is a riot. Both are equally hilarious, and when they play off each other, it can be downright asphyxiating. I can't believe that this is the only film that features the two of them together like this, but that alone makes "Year One" worth running out to see.
Apparently critics haven't been kind to this movie. I've read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and almost all of the negatives harp on how this doesn't stand up to writer/director Harold Ramis's past hits like Caddyshack, Vacation, Ghostbusters, etc. So what? Beethoven's 9th symphony may not have been as powerful as his 5th but we still like it.
"Year One" delivers some great laughs, period. Beginning in what seems to be caveman times but quickly shifting into Old Testament Biblical times, it takes us on a wild romp through episodes of Cain & Abel, Abraham & Isaac, Sodom & Gomorrah, and a particularly boy-hungry high priest played by Oliver Platt (you will NEVER recognize him). Irreverent, yes. Funny, yes. Offensive, I doubt it. Not any more than "History of the World Part 1" or "Monty Python's Holy Grail". Definitely less biting than "Life of Brian". But it does pack some bite.
The story isn't particularly new, but it serves its purpose to serve as a vehicle for some witty gags. And again I must harp on the Black-Cera delivery that makes it work. Jack Black plays an inept, loud-mouthed hunter who is constantly coming up with stupid ideas that get them in big trouble. Cera plays a meek gatherer who follows along with everything, quietly trying to explain the idiocy of it all while being ignored. The comedy flows so naturally you'd think it was all improvised like in a Christopher Guest film. But I read in an interview that there wasn't much improv at all. Just a carefully planned script and excellent delivery.
The comedy is mostly family-friendly, but there are some adult innuendos and suggestive gags that may cross the line on occasion. If you & your family feel comfortable laughing about circumcisions, then hey no problem.
Although similar in theme, I would never compare "Year One" to "History of the World" or "Holy Grail". Instead, the comedy reminds me more of "The Rocker" (with Rainn Wilson playing a washed-up 80s metal drummer trying to survive in a band today) or maybe even "Men in Black", odd as that may seem.
There are rumors that Black & Cera may have parts in Ramis's upcoming "Ghostbusters III", and if so I'll definitely run out and see it. Until then, "Year One" remains your only chance to experience this one-of-a-kind matchup. Don't miss out.
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