This has turned out to be a pretty good summer for comedies. True...we're not officially to the summer yet, but the official summer season of movies has started. That being said, the first two major comedic releases have got things off to a tremendous start. "The Hangover" set the bar pretty high and "Year One" came right on its heels having a tough act to follow.
In "Year One", Zed (Jack Black) and his friend, Oh (Michael Cera), are two inept tribesmen just trying to survive. Zed is a lazy hunter with no skills and Oh is a mere gatherer of nuts and berries. When Zed is banished from the village after he eats the forbidden fruit, Oh reluctantly decides to go with him. The two embark on an epic journey that finds themselves wandering in Biblical times in Bible country. They end up meeting Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), Abraham (Hank Azaria) and even Adam (Harold Ramis) and Eve (Rhoda Griffis) during their travels.
They did something here that would have been a huge risk with a lesser film. Most of the scenes you see in the trailer are out of the way within the first 15 minutes or so. That meant they had a whole lot of movie to come up with material good enough to keep the laughs coming. I never doubted for a minute that it would be possible. Not with Black and Cera on board and neither one of them disappointed.
They start us off first focusing on how Zed can't seem to do anything right and Oh is lacking confidence although both mean well. Both traits are something that Black and Cera have mastered from their roles in previous films. That's one of the chief reasons that "Year One" is able to consistently deliver laughs. It's classic Black and Cera. Director Harold Ramis knew the smart thing to do was to cast them as characters that wouldn't be a huge departure for either of them.
Where this flick really starts to take off is once they start venturing into Bible country and running into the Biblical characters we all know. Or at least we SHOULD all know. It immediately brought "Wholly Moses" to mind. Ramis had essentially created a modernized version of that timeless film. He didn't laden it with near as many superstars as that flick had but he captured the same essence. It was people of Biblical times behaving with modern behaviors. Watching them do things like get car sick from traveling 2mph in a two-wheel cart just cracks me up!
I had almost forgotten about how funny David Cross could be. His portrayal of Cain was a refreshing reminder. The scene with him killing his brother Abel (no, I'm not giving anything away here. Anyone who knows even a smidge about the Bible already knows the story) was just whetting our appetite. He continued to produce even more laughs with his every appearance on screen. His sarcasm was bested only by Jack in top form.
"Year One" has been getting ragged by critics everywhere and even some of the normal folks. In that regards, I guess I am once again going against the grain. I can't help it. When it comes to my comedies, I just have a thing for those that are simplistic and feature my favorite comedians doing what they do best. That's what this film accomplishes. So for anyone who enjoys some classic Jack Black, Michael Cera and even David Cross, this one is definitely for you.
My rating: A