Year One - DVD Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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post #1 of 2 Old 10-12-09, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
Brandon Dimmel
 
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Year One - DVD Review


Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Written by: Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 97 mins
DVD Release: October 6, 2009

Itís about time filmmakers realized that biblical stories, or movies set during biblical times, while fascinating and for many people important, do not make for very good comedies. The exception to this rule may very well be Monty Pythonís hilarious Life of Brian, but between 2007ís miserable Evan Almighty and the new Year One, itís about time we left the Old and New Testaments alike to filmmakers making dramas. Maybe Iím just not schooled enough in either to get the jokes, but given that the bulk of the comedy emanating from Harold Ramisí Year One is akin to bathroom and dorm hall humor, thatís probably not why I had a problem with this film. Aside from a few chuckles, Year One is a remarkable disappointment given the acting, directing, and writing talent behind its creation.

Year One stars Jack Black as Zed, an overweight, smark-alecky woodsman whose skills are somewhat lacking (heís more apt to spear the fellow hunter than the hunted). Frustrated that the she-gatherer of his dreams Maya wonít have anything to do with his sad-sack slaying skills, Zed becomes angry and rebellious, dismissing the cautioning of his overly-careful pal Oh (Michael Cera) by tasting the ďforbidden fruitĒ of knowledge (which, in movie form, look something like bronzed apples). Busted by another townsman, Zed spurns his people, inadvertently sets fire to the village, and dashes off into the forest convinced his destiny lay outside the redundant existence of the hunter-gatherer society. Unable to woo his own fair cavewoman Eema, Oh joins his friend Zed, if only because of guilt-by-association.
And so begins a confusing journey for the pair as they seek their ďdestinyĒ in the world beyond the forest. Old Testament tales abound; almost immediately they meet Kane and Abel, played by David Cross (known best for his fantastically funny ĎTobiasí in the underappreciated Fox show Arrested Development) and Paul Rudd, star of the far superior comedy, I Love You, Man. Those even remotely knowledgeable of the Old Testament will remember this story, which leads to a fairly early exit by Rudd (sadly). Cross, however, sticks around for most of the movie, and unfortunately contributes few laughs as he pokes his head in and out of Oh and Zedís adventure.

There are plenty of stories like this one. Oh and Zed prevent the killing of Isaac (Superbadís uber-dork McFlavin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) by his father, Abraham (Hank Azaria). Azaria, whose most notable contribution to the comedy world is probably the slew of voices behind several The Simpsons characters (Apu, Moe, Chief Wiggum, etc) provides the best laughs in the film. He is on-screen a total of ten minutes, tops.

Whatís the problem with this film? I have identified two issues: first, the writing. There simply arenít many funny lines in this flick, which is jam-packed with all kinds of acting talent, from those Iíve already mentioned to Oliver Platt, Horatio Sanz, director Ramis himself, and of course Black and Cera. I figure the writingís problem is the time period, which is hardly relevant for most of todayís audiences. Fewer and fewer people are familiar with these stories, which are also incredibly alien to the actors involved. Thereís also a lot of garbage humor here, which is fine in teen or college comedies like Superbad or Role Models or I Love You, Man Ė all of which are set in 2000-and-something Ė but feel much out-of-place in this environment. Itís possible that people in the actual year one made jokes about bodily fluids, but it just doesnít sit as well with me as it would were these crude lines dropped into a modern setting.

The second problem? Jack Black. His humor is zany, energetic, but if you ask me not particularly thoughtful. Truth be told, I havenít enjoyed Black in a film since his launching role in the John Cusack comedy High Fidelity (2000), where he played a mouthy record store employee that offered scathing criticism of music tastes with every album. Admittedly, Iím biased and because Iíve been put off Blackís humor, I have avoided several of his films, including all that Tenacious D stuff. If you like that, then you might enjoy Year One more than I did.

Cera is funny, but if the writingís not there his endearingly gentle and innocent 9-year-old schtick just isnít very endearing.

Video



I watched this film on DVD and must admit that the video was one of its strengths. The images make use of strong colors, impressive detail, and great sharpness. Set in forests, deserts, and the ancient city of Sodom, there is certainly more eye-candy here than the average laugher. Unfortunately, itís low on laughs.

Audio



Like most comedies, there are no battles, sieges, or other on-screen events capable of showing off a pricey surround sound system. Most of the music fuses modern and exotic harmonies, but none of it is particularly memorable.

Extras



First off, viewers have the option of choosing either the ďtheatricalĒ or ďunratedĒ versions of the film, the latter offering several new scenes, none of which represent criminal negligence for their exclusion from the movie seen by theatre-goers. Deleted scenes amount to just over four minutes, while alternate and extended pieces tack on another fourteen. Most of these merely prolong the inane conversations of Zed and Oh. The DVDís best offering is a 17 minute long featurette called Year One: The Journey Begins, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the impressive wardrobe selection along with plenty of sarcastic commentary from the filmís many funny actors.

Overall, Year One is not so painfully bad as it is painfully disappointing. Director Ramis, responsible for some of comedyís most legendary films (including Groundhog Day, Analyze This, and Caddyshack) worked alongside The Office writer Gene Stupnitsky with only middling results. Actors whoíve proven themselves both recently and in years past fail to bring their script to life. It would be too harsh to call Year One a one-star movie, but it is hardly as epic as the literature on which itís based.

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post #2 of 2 Old 10-12-09, 04:24 PM
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Re: Year One DVD Review

Brando, thank you for the review. Oddly enough, I got this through netflix and started watching it last night. My intention was to do a review in the next week or two of this one, but I JUST could not sit through it. About 45-50 minutes into I turned to my wife and said, I think I am doing with this movie. She agreed without hesitation.

This movie did NOT work for me. A movie set in biblical times about biblical times made into a comedy seems like an "okay" idea to me. But, they just took it one step to far by making it a crude-humored movie about biblical events. Terrible idea.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
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