Year One

Black Damnation


20 June 2009| No Comments on Year One     by Sean Chavel


Year One is a buddy in loincloth movie that stinks. The two mismatched buddies are played by Jack Black and Michael Cera as Zed and Oh, respectively. Both are outcast from their tribe within a few minutes into the beginning. The former a failed hunter and the latter a feeble gatherer and both a nuisance to all, especially to beefcake hunter Marlak in the tribe. Zed and Oh cower in his presence ceaselessly afraid of getting bitch-slapped by him. They desert the tribe, alas, a ho-hum adventure begins. Note to Hollywood executives: Stop putting Michael Cera in movies.

The first half of the movie roams around in unspectacular forests and deserts, while the second half is located in the city of Sodom amidst chintzy sets where our boys Zed and Oh hope to bathe in sin, but get nowhere near debauchery. Along the way there are slave auction jokes, edge of the world jokes, circumcision jokes and a gag on a horse cart ride involving our characters to barf because… they are going way too fast.

Black and Cera behave in totally contemporary terms, like a dinner theater “History of the World – Part I.”  What these boys want is simple. Juno Temple and June Diane Raphael are delicious babes as Maya and Eema, respectively. Both babes share the practical desire for men who can hunt and provide for them, but lazy Zed and inept Oh don’t fit that bill. Black is the same numbskull from “Tenacious D” and Cera is still the gawky boy from “Juno,” except less funny. The boys make the kind of verbal faux pas you hear typically in 21stcentury nightclubs.

More irreverent humor is demonstrated when Hank Azaria presents his whack-job interpretation of Abraham the prophet who’s so giddy about circumcision that it must be celebrated with afterwards wine and sponge-cake. His son Isaac, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse who like Cera was another “Superbad” alum, and here is another weakling dork trying to not get stomped on by the hulk-men rivals around him.

Due to its setting in Sodom you can of course depend on offhand sodomy jokes –none of them are memorable – but you can exclude any visual gags on sodomy, thankfully. For bawdy sexual humor, Oh has to oil and rub the hairy chest of a high priest (Oliver Platt, plump as ever), and when a sexy wench simulates fellatio on a banana Zed responds by nibbling suggestively on a beef stick.

Even less appetizing is its in-your-face gross jokes. The less said about bodily fluids the better yet it must be said that director Harold Ramis (“Caddyshack,” “Groundhog Day”) likes to go in for the crass close-up. What he never goes for at any point of the movie is any shot that is remotely visually sensual. The blah made-for-cable-like cinematography is credited to Alar Kivilo.

If “Year One” elicits you to have three or four shameless big laughs, particularly it was funky to hear Black bellow “save the virgins!” But too much of the movie makes you cringe in its toilet-minded yukkiness. Cera is the same shy mope he’s been recycling through all his movies but when he finally breaks a virgin’s chastity it gives him a sense of aggression and hostility that eluded the actor’s persona previously. Moments like this are funny, but what Ramis never gives his movie is a funny and consistent momentum, and many of his scene transitions are painfully choppy.  “Year One” isn’t entirely witless but it is close.

97 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “History of the World – Part I” (1980); “Caddyshack” (1980); “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989); “Land of the Lost” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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