When will Hollywood understand that a little Jack Black goes a long way? A long list of comic misfires proves that his manic man-child shtick is much better suited to funny supporting characters than leading man roles. (Exceptions can be made for movies needing a panda bear.)
This fact quickly becomes clear in Year One, where Black and red-hot Millennial Michael Cera play slacker cavemen who take a comedic stroll through biblical times after being banished from their hunter-gatherer tribe. Along the way this Cro-Magnon Abbott and Costello meet a galaxy of Old Testament stars, including a two-faced Cain (David Cross) and his quickly dispatched brother Abel (a wasted Paul Rudd), a circumcision-happy Abraham (Hank Azaria) and his punk-ass son Issac (Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse), as well as a whole city full of Sodomites (in the city of Sodom, natch).
The truth is Mel Brooks already covered some of the same territory in The History Of The World: Part One … and it wasn't that funny the first time around (it took the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition to finally earn big laughs). Year One's tepid attempts at hilarity fall somewhere between Ringo Starr's moronic Caveman and Dudley Moore's equally moronic Wholly Moses.
Director Harold Ramis knows a thing or two about comedy but seems, like much of his cast, to be on cruise control here. The pace is off, jokes land with a thud and the camera work can be charitably called serviceable. The only person who seems to give a damn is Oliver Platt, who vamps it up as a grotesquely queenly high priest. There are a few chuckles here and there but the effort is simultaneously lazy and labored. I mean, how hard are you scraping for a laugh if you make Black pick up a handful of feces and proceed to taste test it?
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.