Year One

by Rick Grant
Grade: C- / Rated PG-13
In this loutish cave man movie, director Harold Ramis capitalized on Jack Black and Michael Cera’s popularity to appeal to the youth market. He shot this critic proof low level humor scenario pretending that he and the cast were 12 year’s old. Ever since Ringo Starr produced his awful cave man movie, others have tried their hand at the stupid genre, but no one has succeeded in shooting an acceptable film set in the cave man era.
Indeed, this film sets a new lower standard for the genre. Relying on fart jokes and potty humor, with virgins thrown into the fire as sacrifices, this juvenile scenario is saved by the comedic chemistry between Jack Black as Jed and Michael Cera (Juno) as Oh. At least the two actors are sometimes funny which partly excuses the rest of the dumbness of the film.
The motley cast of cave men and women start out as hunter gatherers. Jed eats from the forbidden fruit tree and then wants to explore beyond the tribe’s territory. With his sidekick Oh at his side, Jed sets out as a curious explorer into strange lands. They end up in a town controlled by an incompetent king. There the rest of the tribe has been captured and forced into slavery. The story jumps from cave men to Roman times.
Jed and Oh sign up for the military and avoid their colleagues fate. However, things don’t always work out in their favor. Oh ends up a slave rubbing oil on the high priest’s (Oliver Pratt) hairy chest. Jed seeks to fornicate with the queen but is foiled by the palace intrigue.
Ramis’ only instructions to the cast was to act out the scenes very broadly. Nothing was out of bounds. The silliness continues ad nauseam as Jed and Oh go from one low brow gag after another. Then the body fluid jokes are exploited to get cheap laughs. The script plays with the Biblical stories like Cain and Abel with Cain bludgeoning Abel to death and denying he did it.
Gia Carides plays the queen with whom Jed wants to make whoopie. By the middle of the film, Ramis must have been so amused by the jokes, he let the actors go way beyond what is funny in their bits. This was a shoot out of control.
By a twist of fate and a bunch of weird circumstances, Jed rises to a certain level of power. But his intelligence has not made the quantum leap to understand lesbians or other more sophisticated things. Yeah, some of Jack Black’s bits are hilarious in a pubescent way.
Three quarters of the way through the shoot, Ramis realized that he had to rely on Black and Cera to pull off the last part of the story. The supporting cast seems to be punch drunk with conflicting directions from Ramis and they just cruise through the shoot, hoping that it will mercifully end so they can get paid and run away from this crazy ass shoot.
No doubt, teenagers on summer break will flock to see this film and it is destined to become a youth classic. It redefines the lowest form of humor set in a time frame that keeps shifting from one period to another without regard to evolution or linear time passage. It’s nonsensical entertainment for people who think a guy hanging upside down (Cena) has to pee, and when he does, it goes all over his face is funny.