Talented actors do their best to save ‘Year One’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Columnist
  • Friday, June 19, 2009 10:16am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

When “Year One” is funny, it’s mostly because of individual effort on the part of Jack Black and Michael Cera, the two talented actors playing the lead cavemen.

“Cavemen” might not be the right term. Tribesmen, perhaps. This movie shuffles around cultural chronology in a goofy way, collapsing a few biblical stories into the same time frame.

Thus our traveling heroes, Zed and Oh, find themselves stumbling from that famously nasty encounter between Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd, uncredited) and directly into Abraham (Hank Azaria) preparing to smite Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin from “Superbad”).

Can a visit to Sodom be far behind? I think not.

Having eaten forbidden fruit, Zed (that’s Black’s character) considers himself to be Chosen. So when the two arrive in Sodom’s royal court, he figures he might have a shot with the local princess. Unfortunately, Oh is singled out by a fraudulent holy man (Oliver Platt) for unwanted attention.

Much of the humor of this PG-13 (ha) movie is leering to the point of lewdness, as though trying to keep up with the Joneses, or the Apatows. It’s very keen on jokes about circumcision and eunuchs.

Jack Black goes obnoxious, and Michael Cera does his distracted feyness, and both are effective enough. The various performers get a few zings in, proving mostly that you can’t prevent the likes of Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt from excavating funny moments out of any material.

“Year One” is directed by Harold Ramis, who has never topped “Groundhog Day” and probably never will. He also plays Adam with enough beard to suggest he could’ve been a regular performer back in the heyday of the sword and sandal picture.

The movie has a ramshackle pace from scene to scene that suggests either post-production pruning or directorial indifference. Or both, probably.

But maybe it was an uphill battle from the get-go. Movies such as this depend more on anachronistic gags than actual storytelling, and that kind of humor generally runs out of gas after a half-hour or so. “Year One” lasts an hour and a half. You do the math.

“Year One”

Jack Black and Michael Cera are tribesmen who venture out of their forest and into a series of mashed-up biblical stories. Harold Ramis directed this ramshackle and frequently lewd comedy, which mostly relies on its performers for what humor it achieves; luckily the cast also includes people like Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt.

Rated: PG-13 for language, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

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