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Harold Ramis is responsible for a lot of very big moments in comedy cinema.  The multi-talented writer/ director/ actor/ producer made his bones in Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe and went on to scribe such classics as Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This.  Was it really necessary for the man who wrote the seminal comedy Animal House and was a founding member of SCTV to hitch his established star to Judd Apatow’s rocket?  Year One is the first collaboration between Ramis and the producer of such box-office zeitgeists as The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad and with any luck, it is also the last.

The time-tripping Year One follows Zed and Oh, a couple of cavemen who can’t quite find their niche.  Utterly incompetent in their macho world of hunter-gatherers, the two are exiled from their village and decide to see whether or not any life exists over their small patch of prehistoric land.  The Cro-Magnons run into a host of characters from the Old Testament, including Cain and Abel, their dad Adam and the father of monotheism, Abraham, before winding up in Sodom and Gomorrah.

I suppose it was inevitable; in order to remain relevant and with it in the eyes of the younger generation, that Ramis would want a dip in the fountain of youth, but the hip new clothes just don’t fit.  Outside of the odd Mars bar in the pool, Ramis’ comedy managed to be hilarious without delving into the gutter for its humour, so it’s off-putting to see the abundance of puerile fart, puke and poo jokes that saturate Year One.  The plot is a less-clever rehash of Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part 1 premise only with more of a theology vs. science slant.  In roles that require no stretch at all, Jack Black trots out his wired wild man routine and Michael Cera plays to type as the nebbishy milquetoast sidekick.  It’s presumed that dropping these two in the middle of some of the Bible’s most famous stories would be amusing, but they don’t really do very much more than make anachronistic comments on scenes like Cain becoming the world’s first psycho killer, or Abraham deciding that circumcision is a good choice for his entire nation.  Some of the observations are indeed clever, but the humour is bogged down with the subplot of Zed and Oh’s rescue of their fellow villagers and Zed’s going on about being the “chosen one.”  Chosen for what, we never know nor care.  The film’s pacing is uneven and plows to a leaden thud midway through with Ramis’ decision to end the journey at Sodom, when the movie was clipping along fairly amusingly until they got there.  In this instance, I wish the director had followed Mel Brooks’ lead more closely and gone further to have the guys meet Moses, Job, King David, Samson.  There’s plenty of comedy fodder Ramis could’ve taken advantage of and picked up the dead weight of Year One’s second half.  I don’t know if more biblical references could have cured have cured all of Year One’s ills, but at least I wouldn’t have been as bored.

Adding small sparks of life to this comedy funeral are bit parts by folks like Bill Hader, David Cross and Paul Rudd, but any gold to be mined out of those cameos is for naught because the movie just isn’t very good.  Oliver Platt, as the lecherous High Priest of Sodom with the hots for Oh and hot oil massages, is the only thing I can recommend from this misfortune.  I wouldn’t have minded the recycled plot if only there was anything remotely clever and original as one might expect from Harold Ramis to add to the party; instead we’re subjected to a tired premise and gross-out jokes.  Note to Mr. Ramis; the Fountain of Youth is probably not located in a sewer.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 17th, 2009

 

 

Click here for our interview with Director Harold Ramis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2006-2017 The Diva Review.com

 

 

 

Photos

(Courtesy of  Sony Pictures)

 

June Diane Raphael at Year One Premiere 6.15.09

 

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