Year One

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: -1/2

Content: -3

FILM SYNOPSIS: A couple of lazy hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) are banished from their primitive village and set off on a crudity-laced journey through the ancient world. On the trek, they meet Abraham as he is about to sacrifice Isaac. In the same day they meet Cain and Able, arguing. (The audience seemed stunned when Cain cracked his brother on the head with a rock. I wasnít sure if that reaction was due to the jolt of seeing a character in a comedy get whacked to death with a rock, or if they hadnít heard the story in the first place.) By the next day, the two wanderers find that their ladies fair from their former tribe have been taken prisoner and made slaves. Our inept heroes want to rescue the cave-girl cuties before they are sacrificed to the gods. And in the process, they set the world straight about not worshiping unseen entities. By filmís end, they propose that we should trust in ourselves, not gods Ė or, Iím assuming, the God. (Interesting how that seems to be an agenda of a great many in the media Ė to dissuade us from believing in God. Wonder why that is?)

Harold Ramis directs. The screenplay is by Harold Ramis & Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg (The Office) from a story by Harold Ramis. The film is produced by Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow, and Clayton Townsend.

PREVIEW REVIEW: When a reporter recently asked director Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Ghostbusters) if he thought some of the religious humor in Year One might offend, Ramis answered, ďI hope so!Ē After reading that, my professional standards of fair and balanced were somewhat tested. Add to the perceived religion bashing the R-rating, todayís uncouth treatment of the comedy genre, and the starís hit-and-miss track record, and I found that my objectivity was further tested.

To be honest, the only reason I attended this screening was because of the Old Testament stories being included in the plotline. I was wondering (hoping) that maybe, just maybe, the writer/director/producer would pay homage to faith or an unseen Creator. But if Mr. Ramis merely used the opening books of the Bible as satirical fodder for Jack Blackís raunchy style of humor, then I wanted to be able to warn those who still venture out to see comic cinema.

I have lived in hope for too long when it comes to this eraís treatment of film comedy. Gone are the days when satire (Dr. Strangelove) made a lasting impression, or screwball wit (His Girl Friday) caused sides to split, or visual gags (Jerry Lewisí The Nutty Professor) made us laugh without the aid of flatulence jokes. While Jack Black and crew minimize the allegorical structure of First Testament stories, the filmmakers rely on what seems to work for those who still go to comedies Ė fart jokes, poop jokes and masturbation jokes. We are in the era of the I-canít-believe-I-just-saw-that movie comedy. And as with rap music, we seem to be stuck with the abrasive and the mediocre.

As I sat there, watching Jack Black sniffing, then tasting excrement, I asked myself, ďWhy am I here?Ē Surely by now, most of my readers are aware that Back To School was a fluke, that Jack Black wasnít going to be family-friendly very often, if ever. Those who pay him take advantage of his slovenly looks and his penchant for over-the-top bawdy humor. Even if this guy wants to do something more substantial than a joke about having sex with his mother, those who do the hiring wonít let him.

So, here comes my big announcement. Iím through with todayís movie comedies. Itís bad enough that Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson choose one inane script after another, passing them off as romantic comedy. I suppose Iíll still suffer through some of those. But why would I want to see Will Ferrell pour a container of urine over his head (The Lost World) or listen to Seth Rogen do an f-bomb-laced war of the witless routine (Observe and Report) or view Jack Black throwing up due to motion sickness (the joke is the wheel has just been invented and though the oxen-pulled cart goes very slowly, still he gets motion sickness Ė thatís the highlight youíll be talking about for weeks).

If I see Jack Black, or Will Ferrell, or Seth Rogen, or Ben Stiller or any of their younger versions in anyway attached to a movie, I plan on staying home with a book. No more will I subject myself to lewdness or cynicism, or Will Ferrell running around in his underwear.

One should never say never, but unless Iím guaranteed by a publicist that their new comic project has something of substance Ė and by substance I mean jokes built around the human condition rather than inappropriate comments about female body parts Ė then Iím through with subjecting myself to comedies that mock traditional values, profane our Godís name, or insult our intellect. Iím tired of groaning when I should be laughing. No longer will I sit in a theater with people who enjoy shock value over wit.

Does this signal my leaving my career of film criticism all together? I honestly donít know. I know this: Iím tired of Hollywoodís constellation proclaiming their disbelief in the Bible. I feel they have declared war on not just our culture, but on people of faith. Well, I accept the challenge. How about you? Stop paying them for mediocrity and the belittling of your values. Demand respect.

To read about or order Preview editor Phil Boatwright's new book, MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE REALLY, REALLY BAD, go to our Home Page.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Crudity throughout, both verbal and visual.

Obscene Language: Five or so s-words and one f-bomb.

Profanity: I caught no misuse of Godís name, but the Old Testament is used for comic fodder throughout.

Violence: Some cartoonish slapstick, but when Cain kills Able, itís played for a joke, as he has to keep hitting him on the head.

Sex: A great deal of sexual innuendo and suggestiveness.

Nudity: None, though several women are dressed provocatively.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: Like everything else in this movie, the treatment of the Old Testament is in bad taste.

Running Time: 100 minutes
Intended Audience: Fans of outlandish humor

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