YEAR ONE is a lazy excrescence of a film. Crude, sloppy, flat, and singularly uninspired, its only redeeming virtue is proving that Michael Cera is capable of rising above even this abominable material. He does this by being in a film that is entirely separate from the one taking place around him, a smart move.
He is Oh, a gatherer in a primitive community where the hunters have all the glory. Not that heís not proud of his work finding the best berries. He also enjoys the challenge of rooting out the least soiled fruit, but it has failed to impress the girl of his dreams Eema (Juno Temple). This has led to serious ruminating on the state of things, pondering why gatherers arenít more respected, and why his best pal, Zed (Jack Black), doesnít heed the forbidden part about the forbidden fruit that hangs from a nearby tree. Zed is a hunter and sometime gatherer who has similarly failed to impress anyone with either skill. He longs for Maya (June Diane Raphael), who longs for someone who can bring the bacon home. Literally. The forbidden fruit, rife with the knowledge of good and evil, seems to be the right move. Alas, like the film itself, itís not.
While Black and his manic bluster should be a perfect counterpoint to Ceraís self-conscious introspection, he is instead merely annoying with his eyebrows fluttering with frightening velocity, his mouth twisted into a rictus of a grin, and his delivery that confuses volume with timing. Together they careen painfully through biblical times, meeting Cain (David Cross), Abraham (Hank Azaria), and the denizens of Sodom, all of whom overact in silly costumes that are as badly put together as the story. You can almost see where the glue is holding some of the embellishments in place. The editing is an uncertain jumble of rough cuts, the directing is aimless, and the recurring motif of Zed thinking that he is the chosen one clutches madly for a payoff that doesnít quite deliver.
Then thereís Cera, waiting exactly the right beat before mumbling his love for Eema, grumbling quietly to Zed about being left to the claws of a cougar, and explaining, in an inspired bit of off-handed embarrassment, the exact nature of the hair stuck on his hands. That he must also take part in explorations of human bodily functions that are neither clever nor funny is a crime of cinema. That there are so many of them, the first poop joke arrives 10 minutes or so in, the farting sequence takes an eternity to end, only makes it more irritating.
YEAR ONE wants desperately to be a riotous romp, instead it is a example of how to torment a sense of the absurd into tedium that mopes its way across the screen.