Wow. Here was a movie I was looking forward to for a couple of months — ever since I'd seen the first trailer for it. It looked to be hilarious. It had Jack Black in it, along with Michael Cera who's a master at playing nerdy, lacking in self confidence, put-upon characters. It was directed by Harold Ramis, who's given us such classics as Groundhog Day, Stripes and Ghostbusters. What could possibly be better?
The answer? This movie. I'm sorry but it was just lame. All the best jokes were in the trailer, and at a better pace. It had a feeling like it wasn't quite finished — as if the person whose job it was to take half-baked material and really make it shine didn't show up for work while the film was being shot and edited. In short, it just didn't hold together.
I've seen this before with historical comedies. Mel Brooks' History of the World Part One had a similar issue. It seemed like it should have been funnier, but it wasn't. Of course, that movie was more a series of sketches than a single story. At least HOTWPO had some memorable lines, though. "It's good to be the king" is still true. Year One is completely forgettable.
The basic plot has Black and Cera being kicked out of their caveman tribe. So they begin to wander the countryside where they meet an assortment of Biblical characters, including Cain and Abel, Joseph and Issac, and the good people of Sodom. It's a sort of mashup of historical references that allows Ramis and co-writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg to reel off some Jewish jokes. And not real goods ones, with the exception of Ramis (as Adam) describing his people as being the Chosen People, the favorites of God, but not very good at sports. Once they make it to Sodom, they determine to try to rescue two women from their tribe who have been taken as slaves.
You see what I'm getting at? It's a sort of mixed bag that doesn't hold together very well. I'm sure it will be hilarious on cable or on video. But for the big screen, save your money. Nothing to see here, move along.
–Reviewed by Ken Krause