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PCR #482 (Vol. 10, No. 25). This edition is for the week of June 15--21, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Year One"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera and Oliver Platt
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 40 mins

Did you ever wonder how man evolved? How he went from living under the stars to building his own home? From killing an animal with his bare hands to buying treats in the market? Well then do I have a movie for you.

Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) are, respectively, a hunter and a gatherer in their tribe. Better put, they are the worse hunter and gatherer in their tribe. They seem to exist only to be the bane of ridicule from their fellow hunters and gatherers (it is soon apparent that there are only two jobs in the tribe). One day Zed stumbles onto a tree covered with the shiny, golden FORBIDDEN FRUIT OF KNOWLEDGE! Despite Oh’s pleas not to taste it, Zed takes a bite, opining that he will soon be the smartest person in the tribe. “It’s a pretty low bar,” Oh replies. Of course, rather than being respected for their new found knowledge, Zed and Oh are cast out into the unknown world by their tribe. And so begins their adventures in “Year One.”

A hit and miss comedy that does both equally, “Year One” is fueled by the manic ball of energy that is Jack Black. His portly frame belying his failure as a hunter, Blacks’ Zed knows there is something better outside of the tribe and he stops at nothing to find it, to not only better his own station but to win the affection of Maya (June Dianne Raphael), the current main squeeze of the tribes’ leader. Oh also has a secret crush on Eema (Juno Temple) only he isn’t as vocal about it as Zed is of his love for Maya. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen this all before in Carl Gottliebs’ “Caveman.” Only instead of Ringo Starr, Dennis Quaid, Barbara Bach and Shelly Long we have Black, Cera, Raphael and Temple.

The film does get more original once the two are sent packing. A chance meeting with Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd) is humorous, as are their continual run ins with Cain throughout the film. A run in with Abraham (Hank Azaria) about to sacrifice his son, Issac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is also funny, with Abraham insisting they are just playing a game called “Burny-burny, cut-cut.” As the very effeminate (and hairy) High Priest, Oliver Platt seems to be a combination of “Monty Python and the Life of Brians’” Pontius Pilatte and Biggus Dickus. Black and Cross seem to be having the most fun and it shows on screen. Michael Cera is….well, Michael Cera is Michael Cera. His shy, sarcastic self has worked well for him in everything from “Arrested Development” to “Superbad.” But in my opinion he needs to branch out soon or that is the only character he’ll ever play. Jack Black did “King Kong.” Seth Rogen has “The Green Hornet.” Heck, even Jim Carrey learned he couldn’t talk out of his butt all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cera’s work (and am anxiously awaiting the “Arrested Development” film), but he needs to shift gears soon or he’ll surely be left behind in Hollywood’s rat race.

The screenplay, by director Ramis and “The Office” writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, is funny but, to quote Joe Bologna in “My Favorite Year,” it’s not FUNNY.
Certainly not the kind of funny I expect from Ramis, who has written or co-written some of the funniest films EVER (“Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” to name a few). That Stupnitsky and Eisenberg are now writing “Ghostbusters III,” apparently with no official input from Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, worries the heck out of me. Of course, it’s not due until 2012 so I’m not going to lose any sleep right now.

As I said, “Year One” is hit and miss. So, on a scale of zero to four stars, I give it

This week's movie review of "Year One" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.