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Harold Ramis's THE YEAR ONE Screens!

Beaks here... In a perfect world, we'd be referring to THE YEAR ONE as Harold Ramis's "highly anticipated follow-up to 2005's surprise box office hit, THE ICE HARVEST." Instead, it's just another Judd Apatow-produced all-star flick directed by a great filmmaker in dire need of a hit. Injustice. (Seriously, throw THE ICE HARVEST on your Netflix queue if you've never seen it.) I read (and wrote about) the Ramis/Lee Eisenberg/Gene Stupnitsky script last December (they teamed for some episodes of THE OFFICE), and, despite some structural flaws, thought it was pretty damn funny. Skimming through the below write-up from "The Free Screening Whore", it sounds like the trio tweaked the material a little (e.g. Cain was the "twiddly thumb guy"). Still, the basic concept is the same: it's a comedic conflation of the Old Testament starring Jack Black and Michael Cera as a pair of cavemen wandering through history. There are some spoilers, so tread carefully if you want to be virginal when this film opens next fucking June.
I just got back from a pre-screening of the new Apatow-produced Harold Ramis film "The Year One." (Or "Year One", which all of the paperwork said, but the rough opening titles definitely had "The") I saw the flick but wasn't chosen for the discussion afterwards, so I'm sending you my thoughts. They said we were the first audience to see it, but who knows; maybe they were lying to get us pumped. I'll sum up my opinion quickly for those not wanting to read the rest: very funny. For those that desire a bit more detail, here we go. As you may know, the movie stars Jack Black and Michael Cera as early tribesmen. They are banished from their (secluded?) tribe and travel around ancient earth running into zany characters that allow for a mother load of cameo appearances. The movie opens on Jack Black's character Zed, with his would-be lady Maya, played by June Raphael, walking through the forest where they come upon the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She asks him to take a bite, and he does so that she will "lay with him." The apple seems to have an awakening effect on Zed, who begins to question the nature of life and believe himself to be chosen by God as the film progresses. I'm not a history aficionado, but I'm pretty sure there's a lot of time-compression going on to allow a lot of these elements/characters to co-exist. For the sake of the comedy, I forgive them to a point. We get to see our heroes encounter hilarious characters such as Cain and Able (David Cross and Paul Rudd, respectively). They get into a slow-speed wagon chase with Adam (Harold Ramis). Zed is so amazed by the wheel on the wagon that he comments, "Wow, that's the greatest idea since the vagina." They then travel to the city of Sodom and meet circumcision-crazy Abraham (Hank Azaria) along the way, whose son (McLovin) joins them on their trip. All the movie's shenanigans are truly hilarious. With Black and Cera's initial interactions as the slacker tribesmen, the film opens strong. In fact, the entire opening sequence with the tribe is exceedingly funny. Genius funny man Bill Hader plays the Shaman, who has one brief but memorable exchange with Black's Zed. A lot of the people I saw the flick with agreed that when the group gets to Sodom, the laughs slow down a bit, but are sure to pick right back up. The King's hilariously homosexual High Priest is played by Oliver Platt. He is creepy in the way that makes you laugh until you can't breathe. Especially when he takes a liking to young Oh (Michael Cera's character) and forces him to rub oil on his exposed forest of a chest. 'Nuff said. I really only have one issue with the film: the universe in which the comedy takes place is a bit sloppily introduced; leading to our main characters developing beyond what you'd imagine for a comedy of this outrageous style. Zed's hilarious ruminations in the Room of the Holiest of Holies teeter on the edge of legitimacy. The movie is, in my opinion, unable to support these ideas, and collapses in a finale that is both unsatisfying and a bit confusing. For example, there is this character who twiddles his fingers a lot who wishes to steal the King's throne. He's so poorly executed as a character that not only can I not remember his name (OR find him on IMDB), but I failed to understand at all what happened with his character at the end. Also, Zed's final climactic choice to reject his developing status as a messiah was weakly set-up, and the payoff fell flat. In fact, there are so many changes of power between the characters at the end, I can't quite remember who ends up where. Somehow Oh ends up being a general (?), and the King is killed and I think that poorly set-up twiddly-finger guy is made King. Weren't we supposed to hate him? Or since we sort of hated the king for sacrificing virgins, maybe we're supposed to like Twiddly? Speaking of the virgin sacrifices, it seems in order to heighten the tension, the main squeezes of both our main characters are captured early on and made to work in the palace. When it comes time for the King to sacrifice more virgins, they are brought to the mouth of the flaming bore's head! But wait … hadn't Zed's lady Maya "lain" with him many times before? Another character later seems to use the just-had-sex excuse to get out of it … why didn't she? Other than an ending that is unsatisfying and makes little sense to me, the movie's hilarious. It inspired me to think about the characters a bit too much, more than there is there to think about. I don't know how that can be reconciled, but maybe they can just re-film the end like they did for Anchorman. I'll be seeing it opening day for sure; just to hear them joke about a room called The Holiest of Holies. If you use this, call me The Free Screening Whore.
David Cross and Paul Rudd as Cain and Abel = ticket bought. See you in a year.

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