The Night Out: Year One (2009), or In Spite Of It All…

20 06 2009

The critics have spoken in unison: Year One is bad. Let all who enter be warned that it is a movie of bad jokes and uninspired moments. I have heard some pretty nasty stuff being slung around all over the place about this comedy, and while I’m not here to trod on anyone’s toes, I do have to say that, for the most part, these critics are out of line. This is not a ONE star movie! I had quite a few hearty laughs here. Why is it that, in the circle of big name critics, whenever there is a movie that they don’t like as a whole, they feel the need to come together as a community to stamp it out? Some of these reviews are downright unfair! I can’t believe Ebert would bash this movie, considering how high of a rating he gave Transformers!!! But I digress; don’t believe the hype, ladies and germs. Year One is a good comedy with some hit-and-miss moments that leaves it a little on the average side, but I would HARDLY say it is a one star movie.

We follow two barbarians from their humble and incredibly poor tribe throughout the history of the Old Testament (the dates on all this are a tad off, so don’t be too freaked out by all the blasphemy going on at one time). After being thrown out of their tribe for being idiots, two friends (Zed, an idiot hunter, and Oh, an idiot gatherer) walk around aimlessly into Biblical lore, as they meet up with people like Cain and Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Adam, and the people of Sodom. Together they weed their way through all the craziness involved with the ridiculous Old Testament stories. Just when Zed and Oh think they have found their niche outside of the village, they find that all their tribesman have been captured by slavers and sold into a life of bondage in Sodom, a town it is warned which will be consumed by fire for all the residents’ sinful ways. Can Zed and Oh save the day with the help of all their wacky Old Testament friends?

Ah, superstition. How I love to lampoon the effects that ridiculous notions have had on our society throughout the years. And truly nothing is quite as ridiculous¬† as the New Testament’s mentally unstable older brother, the Old Testament. Director Harold Ramis heartily mocks such notions as circumcisions, virgin sacrifices, and the wrath of an angry, stupid, self-loathing, perverted, horrible, and unjust Christian god. It’s definitely worth a laugh or two to watch him tool with these generally accepted yet insipid ideas.

The acting is pretty good. I’m hearing a lot of complaints about how Jack Black and Michael Cera, as Zed and Oh, don’t really branch out from their collection of stock characters, but I don’t really mind. Black plays the over-confident know-it-all well, and if he doesn’t change it up, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just has to make you laugh, which it does for me. And Michael Cera’s straight-man sarcasm makes for a good pairing that I particularly enjoyed. If you see one Judd Apatow-produced comedy, you’ve seen ’em all, but what keeps us coming back is THEIR sense of freshness with the material, not whatever stock character they’re trotting out. People shouldn’t focus so much on just how fresh the material is, just whether they can make it funny or not. And in this instance, I believe they did.

Some of my favorite things here are the little snippets of dialog that point out the logical foibles of superstition. In one scene, while strolling through the palace in Sodom, Oh and a high priest talk about a mysterious room, known as the Holy of Holies. The high priest tells him that anyone who tries to walk into the room will be immediately vaporized. Michael Cera, always thinking, poses the question, “Well what about the people building it? Did they get vaporized as soon as they finished it? Or did they get a few seconds grace period to get out before it killed them?” The high priest makes up an answer, but it’s things like that really make me like this movie. Now, in no way is it overly critical of religion, and it might even have a vaguely positive spiritual message in the end (don’t ask me where; I can just FEEL it), so don’t get your holy panties in a wad. But it’s always nice to get a little ribbing in on faith, even if nobody ever takes it far enough.

It’s not perfect. There are a few dead zones, and some of the jokes fall flat, and the rest of the cast, with the notable exception of the alt comedy king himself, David Cross, and a surprisingly hilarious Oliver Platt, are pretty uneventful. But I for one had a few laughs, and that has to mean something for a comedy these days, right? Year One has a lot going for it, and it did squander some good moments from some of the weirder parts of the Bible, but going through tamer waters it still manages to pick up some chuckles from yours truly. The hype machine may want to bury this one, but don’t buy into it! I give Year One 6 1/2 Holy of Holies out of 10.

Tomorrow, I will REALLY review Silver Bullet. I mean it!!!




One response

2 10 2009
Jenni David

I wanted to see this but gave into the hype and planned to rent it!! Now I have faith that it might be good!

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