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Monday, August 23, 2010

Year One has Few Laughs


Year One = 1 and ½ Stars
[Zed has eaten an apple from the 'Tree of Knowledge']
Zed: I might know everything. Ask me something?
Oh: Where does the sun go at night?
Zed: Pass. Next question.
Oh: Where do babies come from?
Zed: Pass. Next question.
Oh: [noticing a snake] There's a snake on my foot.
Zed: In the form of a question.
Oh: [scared] There's a snake on my foot?
Zed: Correct!
Harold Ramis is one of the best non-common names amongst comedic talent. Being responsible for writing Animal House, Groundhog's Day, Caddy Shack, Stripes, Meatballs, and Ghostbusters amongst many other works, staring in some, directing some, Ramis has been around for decades, serving as a harness for other talent like Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Chevy Chase, amongst others and pushing them into higher stardom. However, Ramis has remained somewhat in the shadow. despite frequently having work, he is not a household name to a general audience, which is unfortunate.
The morning before seeing his latest directorial effort, I read an interview with Ramis where he talks about his career, the influence he's had on others, namely Judd Apatow who has produced this film, how things have changed for him, and a wonderful bit that is interesting and revealing about his relationship (or non-relationship) with Bill Murray. I mention this because it is more interesting and entertaining than almost anything in the "comedy" Year One.
Roger Ebert: Harold Ramis is one of the nicest people I've met in the movie business, and I'm so sorry "Year One" happened to him. I'm sure he had the best intentions.
Somehow, Ramis and a couple writers from the Office have worked on a story filled with the talents of Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, and McLovin, to make a film that just is not funny. So many things fall flat, the story is terribly structured, and the concept is not taken advantage of beyond shit, fart, and sodomy jokes.
Jack Black and Michael Cera are hunter-gatherers in a small tribe. After Black's character eats from the Tree of Knowledge, he is banished and Cera's character follows him. The two stumble upon various situations and people, including the murderer of Abel, Cain played by David Cross. As the two continue, they eventually find that the two women that they love from their old tribe have been captured and put into slavery, and they must free them. "Hilarity" ensues.
Any chances this movie had at roaming familiar territory that Life of Brian and History of the World Part 1 have covered did not pay off. This movie fails on many levels. I may have giggled a few times at some stuff, but belly laughs there were not.
As far as the two leads go, Jack Black plays loud, boisterous, and PG-13 "Jack Black." Michael Cera plays awkward teenager again, and while I do not dislike him doing that, the few throwaway lines he has here don't do enough to help, and his funniest moments are from a result of things that happen to him and not what he does. Meanwhile, very funny comedic actors like Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, and David Cross somehow work at not generating laughs.
Then you have generally poorly structured sequences. Cera is attacked by a snake, followed by a cut to the next scene with no explanation for how he got out of that situation. The same thing repeats with a cougar later on.
Ramis has had some misfires in his career, but this is a big one, especially with all the talent involved. I can only hope he rebounds quickly and successfully.
Zed: How hard is it to build a hut, its just a pile of sticks and dung.
Oh: You’re a pile of sticks and dung.

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