Screenwriters: Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, Vinnie Jones, Juno Temple, June Diane Raphael
Running Time: 96 mins
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that a comedy about a couple of cavemen trades in primitive humour, still it's tough to imagine even the most monkey-brained of filmgoers getting a kick out of Year One. As for Jack Black fans who (quite rightly) loved him in School Of Rock (2003) and Nacho Libre (2006), they too might find the screwy-faced shtick starts to wear a little thin since he's surrounded by people who are acting just as dumb as he is. All this grunt work only serves to illustrate that getting a laugh out of this script is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
While Black breaks a sweat as hunter-gatherer Zed - furiously jiggling his belly for a cheap laugh - his sidekick Oh is content to merge into the background. He's played by Michael Cera once again doing the bumbling geek routine as seen in sitcom Arrested Development and more recently in hit films Juno (2007) and Superbad (2008). The difference this time is that he does it in a Wayne's World-style wig and loincloth which, alas, makes it even tougher to meet girls. And yet, the subtlety of his performance deserves more attention than Black's head-clubbing approach.
It's that kind of primitive dating advice which gets Oh into trouble with Zed's saucy little sister Eema (Juno Temple) while Zed struggles to impress earthy villager Maya (June Diane Raphael). This frustration provides the barest thread of a story when Zed and Oh discover that the women have been sold into slavery. Naturally they decide to rescue them, but that mission is entwined with lots of superfluous pseudo-historical episodes which begin with Zed eating forbidden fruit and being exiled from the village. There is absolutely nothing funny about that, even as Zed describes its "knowledgey" taste, neither does it make sense in any other context.
From the Stone Age Zed and Oh have somehow stumbled into Biblical times where writer-director Harold Ramis stoops very low for laughs. Paul Rudd makes a cameo appearance as Abel only to be beaten to death by his brother Cain (the very brash David Cross). The sickening crunch of rock against skull becomes louder and louder as Zed and Oh look on, but Ramis doesn't spare us the spectacle either. Far from generating laughs, the brutality of the scene is sure to leave most people stunned into silence. From there, Zed and Oh trudge to Sodom where butt jokes abound and a few loose women distract them from, oh yeah, the rescue mission. The only high spot on the journey is Hank Azaria as Abraham, inventing the ritual of circumcision.
It turns out that Abraham is only slightly less capable than Harold Ramis with a pair of scissors. Then again, if the director had cut all of the pointless, unfunny bits out of the film there'd hardly be anything left. It is in every respect an ill-conceived 'story' beginning with the obvious disparity between the poster image of two Stone Age dunderheads to promote what is actually (though very unsuccessfully) a spoof of Old Hollywood biblical epics. No doubt present-day studio execs would've been wary of offending the churchgoing demographic, but Ramis (who hasn't made a great film since Groundhog Day in 1993) has gone to the other extreme, crafting a comedy with no bite at all. It isn't quite awful enough to make history of Jack Black and Michael Cera, it's just that 95 minutes are made to feel like an age...
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