'Year One' a wreck of biblical proportions

June 19, 2009 

In the beginning, Harold Ramis directed “Caddyshack” and it was good. That can’t be said for his latest work, “Year One,” which is worthy of nothing more than to serve as a buffet for dung beetles — and even dung beetles probably have higher standards.

“Year One” starts with a tale of goofy cavemen and then wanders for what seems like 40 years before it tries to be a religion comedy. It is as if Ramis had two bad ideas for movies and hoped that two wrongs would make a right.

Boy, was he wrong.

Jack Black, the 21st century’s answer to Jerry Lewis, mugs his way through the role of Zed. He’s a hunter with no hunting skills who gets banished from the tribe. He’s joined by not-so-good gatherer Oh, played by the one-note, monotoned Michael Cera.

Zed and Oh’s not-so-excellent adventure takes them through a series of Sunday School lessons. There’s the bickering Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), who both should have been smited. A meeting with Abraham (Hank Azaria) sets off a never-ending string of unfunny circumcision jokes. And, as no surprise, the pair end up in Sodom.

“Year One” is another example of lazy filmmaking being passed off as comedy to moviegoers these days. Talk about enough private parts and the audience might not notice performances so bad by your film’s stars they would be booed out of dinner theater. Load up on body-function jokes and the audience might miss the recycled material.

This uninspired story could have been forgiven if the material had shown even a glimmer of intelligence. Instead, Ramis goes for the crude because it takes no work. It is easier to write a joke about someone urinating on himself than it is to be clever.

Ramis, Black and Cera are not alone. There is plenty of blame for everyone. Oliver Platt destroys whatever crumbs of his career were left with his embarrassing performance as a flamboyant high priest. Olivia Wilde might be the pick as the most beautiful woman in entertainment by a men’s magazine, but her acting is just plain ugly.

Only June Diane Raphael, who plays the object of affection for Zed, brings the right amount of sarcasm to the role. But, she is a lone rose.

The latest work by Ramis starts bad and then takes a turn for the worse. Uninspired writing, made all the worse by amateur acting, leaves “Year One” a complete zero.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

The Fresno Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service