Movie Title: Year One (2009)
Year One is the story of two cavemen, “Zed” (Jack Black) and “Oh” (Michael Cera). The two hail from a small and defunct tribe. Coming from the middle of nowhere, their journey will end in the biblical city of Sodom. Two talent-less misfits whom success has evaded will find themselves shunned, ridiculed, enslaved, and possibly circumcised. Before it’s over, they’ll meet Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, hot virgins, and cities-full of sheep-rapists who prefer to have young boys oil them up and who love to be waited on by slave-girls. Can they ever redeem themselves? Will they ever see the light of dignity again?
They’re disgraced, the two of them, disgraced and not gettin’ any. Oh is a virgin, and his eye is on one beautiful young virgin, “Eema” (Juno Temple). Zed is desperate to bag Maya (June Diane Raphael), the woman of his dreams. But what do you have when you live in the year one and you can’t hunt very well? You don’t have much, that’s for sure. That means it’ll be hard to impress the ladies. And then there’s the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from Genesis, that mythical tree whereby the God of the Bible presented the opportunity for the whole human race to get damned to Hell.
Don’t let the bad reviews get to you. Don’t let the silly previews fool you. I thought this was going to be a big, huge, embarrassing waste of time too. It’s not going to take home any awards, but I was surprised to find Year One a lightheartedly funny and pleasingly sacrilegious slam against the silliness of superstition and the oodles of idiocy that biblical Jewish and Christian ideologies have plagued mankind with.
If you’re familiar with the characters of the biblical narrative, the dialogue will say more for you—so much the more if you are actually biblically well read. Year One is, you could say, a well-earned, common sense slap in the face of the foolish stupid-stitions that our parents and grandparents taught us to fear.
Black and Cera don’t look like cavemen, and neither does anyone else in the film. Just as certainly as cavemen didn’t speak English, these guys are no cavemen. And much of the scenery didn’t look like something from the B.C.E. time period, but none of that matters. With a high-functioning film such as this, it should be second nature to the viewer to expect the pulp value of the film to come in its message, and not anything else. Go ahead and call it stupid, but just make sure you call it substantive while you’re at it because it is. It makes you think—a thing that religion and supernaturalism prevent you from doing.
It shows that a deity who commands the chopping off of a part of a penis that he created is a deity who is, to say the least, a counterintuitive and inefficient being. A god who ordains human sacrifices, a god who has followers that are dumb enough to think that praying sends rain or that one among many is “chosen,” should not be worshipped. The gods are the thorns in the grass to humanity’s bare feet. Gods who have “holy” places and who sometimes “step out,” refusing to answer prayers, making us question their existence, are beings nobody needs.
Everyone except Oh in Year One is supposed to be a stupid ignoramus…and not because they wonder aloud where the sun goes at nights. Had people back then had the knowledge of compassion and a sense of justice, humanity would have been better off, which goes to prove the point that the barbaric book known as the Bible could only have been written in the times of ignorance from which it came. It could never have been written in enlightened times like today. Mankind is too smart for that now.
Year One will require a special audience to be appreciated. It wasn’t altogether hysterical. The humor doesn’t reach high enough levels for slapstick junkies or those who prefer goofball pre-teen movies to get any satisfaction out of it. The potheads won’t be satisfied, nor will anyone dangling too close to the low-functioning marker that most moviegoers tend to hover at.
Being void of plot-twists, the film does struggle to generate and hold interest, but the chemistry of the cast is sturdy. Black and Cera were not sloughing off. Their was acting here, and the character contrasts were keen. The film succeeded in its goal. What it aimed to do, it did fairly well. That makes it a success, if only mildly.
Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Summation: Having been shunned by their village, cavemen Zed and Oh go in search of meaning and a new home.
Director: Harold Ramis
Starring: Jack Black “Zed,” Michael Cera “Oh,” Oliver Platt “High Priest,” David Cross “Cain,” Christopher Mintz-Plasse “Isaac,” Vinnie Jones “Sargon,” Hank Azaria “Abraham,” Juno Temple “Eema,” Olivia Wilde “Princess Inanna,” June Diane Raphael “Maya,” Xander Berkeley “King,” Gia Carides “Queen”