Year One

Year One


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Year one. Pick your choice of profession: hunter or gatherer. Drinking from a gourd is a new invention, building technology has yet to progress beyond jamming some sticks together, and everybody believes that the mountains on the horizon are the edge of the world. But they could probably still make a better movie than this one.

Rule number one of making a spoof is to avoid picking on something that's really funny to begin with. 10,000 BC is still too recent, and covers too much of the same ground, for this film to pretend it wasn't a target. In trying to be serious, 10,000 BC failed terribly, and was immensely entertaining. In trying to be funny, Year One embarrasses all concerned.

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Star of the show is Jack Black, clearly having a good time as the incompetent but lucky Zed. When his taste for forbidden fruit leads him to be driven out by his tribe, he and his young companion Oh (Michael Cera) start exploring the unknown lands beyond their forest, bumping into assorted Biblical characters and, even less explicably, a cougar. Things get complicated when the women they dote on are kidnapped and sold into slavery, and they follow them to Sodom only to find themselves ensnared by its legendary vices. Throw in some Roman soldiers (Vinnie Jones providing the only genuinely charismatic performance, though to say he acts would be stretching credulity too far), a flamboyant old queen of a high priest, a predatory princess and a whole heap of competing plots, schemes and prophesies, and you get what might have seemed like a barrel of laughs but is actually just a barrel of shit.

There's no denying that Black has charm, and as such he manages to make his character likeable even in the most inane situations, but he's sleepwalking through his role and even at his best he couldn't save this film. It's an incoherent mess which fails sustain any joke long enough as it lurches from one scenario to another. True, given the setting, its sexual politics could have been worse, but that's not really an excuse - when the best you can say about a film is that it's not actively offensive, you're in trouble. And that's notwithstanding the fact that it tries to offend, at least in terms of toilet humour, but it's not very good at that either. All Black's charm ultimately achieves is to make one feel embarrassed on his behalf. Year One, Harold Ramis nil.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2009
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Year One packshot
After eating from the tree of knowledge, a Stone Age man gets big ideas and embarks upon a journey of exploration.
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Director: Harold Ramis

Writer: Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky

Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, David Cross, June Diane Raphael, Vinnie Jones, Juno Temple, Hank Azaria

Year: 2009

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

10,000 BC
Life Of Brian