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Movies > Reviews > Year One (2009)
A Sgt Pembry Review
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Year One (2009)

I'm beginning to really dislike Michael Cera - with a passion - and I've only seen two movies and one television show he has starred in.

Let it be said, Cera was perfect as that shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek for four years in the brilliantly unique sit-com Arrested Development (2003-2006) and then again as the shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek in the hilarious Superbad (2007), undoubtedly one of the funniest films of the 21st century's first decade.


But, that's it ... I've had enough of Michael Cera as the shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek. And I don't think he can be anything but the shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek, so I've had enough of Michael Cera. Full stop.

While Juno (2007) and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) have been hits in their own right, I may never watch them. I've seen the previews, and seen enough to know Cera is back at it - playing the shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek. Ditto Youth In Revolt (2009) and the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010).

What has pushed me over the edge was seeing Cera in the disappointing Year One (2009), in which he plays ... you guessed it ... a shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek, only this time in the Year ... well, One.

And, despite the date in which it is obviously set, Cera is playing pretty much the same shy and awkward yet 'lovable' geek as he has previously. There's all his usual downtrodden, unlucky-in-love youth observations, only some are specific to the time - oh, and he's got long and tatty hair for much of the film.

Admittedly, being typecast is not entirely the fault of the actor or actress, but Cera needs to learn some new tricks. Or demand he learn them. Fast. Well, after Arrested Development the movie is released next year anyway.

Even co-star Christopher Mintz-Plasse was able to be a little different in Year One to his memorable McLovin character in Superbad.

Cera is not wholly and solely responsible for making the alleged comedy that is Year One literally a shitty experience, but the 21-year-old certainly doesn't help. Director Harold Ramis can actually take a lot of the blame as he also co-wrote the screenplay with Gene Stupnitsky.

After being the brains (the writer) behind such classic comedies as Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981), Ghostbusters (1984) and Groundhog Day (1993), Ramis has really let himself down with Year One.

When it comes to movies that poke fun at ancient history in supremely clever and funny ways we have Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) and The Holy Grail (1974) on top of the peddlestool, with Mel Brook's History of the World Part 1 (1981) just below.

But Ramis' Year One doesn't come anywhere near them. With what he's served up, it shows that the now 60-year-old has gotten lazy - or simply living in the past.

You could call it historic comedy with its endless use of jokes that could be described as shit (and dick and fart) in more ways than one. Basic toilet humor to entertain viewers under the age of 18.

The first third of the film was just watchable, with a few genuine laughs, but it petered out to be a boring, annoying (particularly when Cera featured) and predictable snoozer.

Cera plays 'Oh', one of two underachieving cavemen friends who are banished from their tribe and go off to have adventures in strange lands - those of a biblical nature.

The other is everyone's favorite mad man Jack Black as 'Zed'. I have been a Black fan for years, but even his usual crazy-assed antics were starting to wear a bit thin in Year One. Like Cera's Oh, Black's Zed is largely what we've seen before from Black in films set in present-day.

It's his character of Zed that forces the pair on the road after he eats an apple from the 'Forbidden Tree'. Zed's crap at hunting - as seen in quite a humorous opening when he spears a fellow tribesman as he's about to kill a deer - and he's crap at gathering - except from the aforementioned Forbidden Tree.

Before sent on their way, Zed and Oh would spend most of their time sitting around discussing the women they would like to 'lay' with and how they might be able to get them - a club to the back of the head doesn't always work as Cera shows in another rare funny moment.

But, not wanting to be caught in the middle of any punishment handed out to Zed by the gods, the tribe expel him. Oh is soon forced to tag along after Zed accidentally burns down the tribe's entire village as he departs.

"You could be my right-hand man," says Zed, to which Oh replies, "I've seen what you do with your right hand ... No thank you."

Out on the their own, Zed resorts to eating what he believes is fresh human feces as a way of trying to track down some new friends.

They find them in the most unlikely of places when they go wandering into a couple of famous stories from The Book of Genesis - that of brothers Cain and Abel, and father and son Abraham and Isaac.

For a time the story shows some promise. It's not where I was expecting it to go, thinking it was purely to be set among the caveman. But it's the fact they did feature such well-known Old Testament characters which hinders Year One further. They've should've gone on with the concept.

David Cross (also from Arrested Development) is prominent as the underhanded Cain - and mildly amusing, particularly when he callously murders Abel (played by an uncredited Paul Rudd (Knocked Up)) in front of Zed and Oh. Ramis himself is the brothers' father, Adam, and Rhoda Griffis (Walk the Line) is Eve.

There is another high point early on which involves the horse and cart Zed, Oh and Cain must escape in after they are suspected of killing Abel. Despite it moving slower than walking pace, it is far too quick for the two primitive cavemen, who have never seen a wheel before, let alone been on a cart, and are left with motion sickness by the experience. Its lack of speed also makes it a comical escape vehicle, especially when there's another in 'hot' pursuit at the same pace behind them.

Hank Azaria (The Simpson) next makes an appearance as Abraham whose own killing of his flesh and blood, Mintz-Plasse's Isaac, is this time prevented by the arrival of the two wandering idiots. But, the scene featuring the famous father and son is dogged by overused circumcision gag.

And it's about here where the movie really drops off once and for all.

Finding out that members of their tribe, including the two they have crushes on, Maya (June Diane Raphael) and Eema (Juno Temple), have been taken as slaves and being held in the doomed city of Sodom, the pair go to rescue them in a very ho-hum, already done (and done better) final act.

It's a long the lines of Apocalypto (2005) or the inferior 10,000BC (2008), but doesn't have anywhere near the action, and probably fewer laughs too. Oliver Platt's lisping, cross-dressing high priest does nothing to help as we move from toilet humor to homophobic humor.

It's a very unsatisfying climax. You want Zed and Oh to be sacrificed, but unfortunately it doesn't happen. Let's keep our fingers crossed there's no Year Two.

Oh brother, where fart thou.

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