Andy Bockelman: ‘Year One’ is far from the year’s No. 1 comedy |

Andy Bockelman: ‘Year One’ is far from the year’s No. 1 comedy

Jack Black, left, and Michael Cera star in Columbia Pictures' comedy, "Year One."
Courtesy Photo

'Year One'

2 out of 4 stars, PG, 97 minutes

Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross

Just when you thought the Geico commercials had shown you every caveman joke you could imagine, along comes the everyday knuckle-dragger’s new favorite feature, “Year One.”

Even in a time when making a living simply meant not dying, there were those who still sought to do less in life.

Tribesmen Zed and Oh (Jack Black, Michael Cera) are on the bottom rung of their clan, unable to garner the respect of their chief (Matthew J. Willig) or the attraction of the women (June Diane Raphael, Juno Temple) for whom they long.

It’s not until Zed makes a faux pas of Biblical proportions – literally – that he realizes he was destined for greatness. Too bad his screw-up means exile from the tribe for both of them.

But that’s OK, because not only do he and Oh learn that the world doesn’t end at the mountain peak that looms over the valley, but there are more people existing on the other side of the hill. And as they meet a few famous figures such as Cain and Abel (David Cross, Paul Rudd), Abraham (Hank Azaria) and more, they find themselves in the middle of the greatest story ever told.

Well, kind of.

As if he needed a skunk pelt to accentuate his grungy hairiness, Black does the same old song and dance as the world’s first slacker. How well you respond is entirely dependent on how much you like any of his other movies.

The same goes for Cera, pulling out the whiny straight man routine we’ve seen in “Superbad,” “Arrested Development” and the rest of his resume.

But what are comedic actors for if not to play the same roles over and over?

At least Oliver Platt is funny as an effeminate Sodomite high priest, but Cross, Rudd and Azaria are sadly forgettable as scripture-inspired characters. However, Christopher Mintz-Plasse has a few good moments as a rebellious Isaac.

Taking his cue from epic spoofs such as “History of the World – Part 1” and “Life of Brian,” director/co-writer Harold Ramis treads the waters of irreverence with his self-aware, semi-sacrilegious satire. But even casting himself as Adam is far from celestial, as the film becomes less and less like Mel Brooks and Monty Python.

There’s hardly much evolution in either the story or the general tone of humor as our boys look for a non-existent promised land – or plot, whichever you prefer – while we hear plenty of jokes about urine, feces and circumcision along the way. It’s not all Neanderthal-oriented – in between the anachronistic body gags are some clever jabs at contemporary society issues, such as gender inequality and Middle Eastern territory disputes.

Still, none of these are edgy enough to have any impact. It’s not nearly as bad as the similar “10,000 BC,” but the bar is set pretty low.

“Year One” may have a good cast and a good concept, but a few good one-liners don’t make up for an overall story that is about as sharp as a dull spearhead.

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