I can’t be certain whether “Year One” refers to the first year in history in which this Harold Ramis directed film takes place or if it refers to the year of film schooling that was finished by this staff behind the cameras on this film. “Year One”, in which Jack Black and Michael Cera wander from one biblical story to the next for no apparent reason other than that being what is written and therefore what is so, is occasionally amusing but only really because of how amateurish it all plays out. Logic was apparently not discovered in our first year here as it makes no appearance in this film at any point. With Black and Cera leading the way though, the buffoonery with which every presence carries itself is enough to get us through the year. How humanity survived with these idiots in charge is beyond me though.
Zed (Black) is a hunter and Oh (Cera) is a gatherer. Zed isn’t any good at his job and Oh shouldn’t be any good at his job as that’s really woman’s work when you think about it long enough. Personally, I feel that both of these jobs should be genderless but this was the first year of history; women didn’t have Madonna or Oprah or Miley Cyrus to show them that they could do anything yet. Zed’s ignorant bumbling and lack of respect for authority get him booted out of the tribe and he goes Jerry Maguire on them, asking who will go with him to start a new tribe. You will never guess who goes with. OK, it’s Oh. Big shock. They never quite realize their dreams of a new utopia as they constantly just run into meddlesome biblical characters, from Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd) to Abraham and Isaac (Hank Azaria and Christopher Mintz-Plasse). They all look absolutely ridiculous with their long wigs and loin cloths; it makes it hard to take any of it seriously but it is a comedy, I guess. Maybe if I had been laughing more, I would have been able to see that.
“Year One” feels unfinished at times. One moment, Oh is being strangled by a snake and then, cut. Oh is back at camp, safe and sound. There is not even a mention of how he evaded what seemed like certain death seconds earlier. He’s safe now and that’s what matters. Poor Oh though – before long he ends up in another perilous situation, this time involving a cougar. Just when you think he is going to be mauled to death, he is suddenly back at camp again. He’s got a few scratches though so at least we know something went down, but what? Did Ramis think that we wouldn’t care how he got out of these scenarios or was that part of the joke? It would fall in line with the film’s random and oblivious sense of humour though. This would be the same irrational approach that doesn’t explain how Oh manages that perfectly smooth shave when everyone else is scruffy or how a couple of the ladies managed to find tinted contact lenses back then. Did I mention that everyone talks as though they grew up watching television?
While sometimes funny, “Year One” is more uneven and odd above anything else. Black plays it cool and takes a strong lead but Cera, while still unavoidably adorable, is beginning to wear his awkwardness a little thin. They make for an amusing enough pair though and it is their combined charisma that gives us the strength to look away from the ludicrously excessive performances from the supporting players (with the exception of Oliver Platt – hilarious). If this really were as introductory as the first year of existence would have it be, I would be more inclined to be more forgiving but these are all seasoned players. This is not amateur night at the caveman improv after all; this is a major Hollywood production. Perhaps had Ramis drawn some parallels between then and now to show how little progress has actually been made in the many years since the first, it might have felt somewhat more purposeful. Instead, it will just be forgotten like history itself.
Review by Joseph Bélanger