Year One -- Film Review

A lot of comedic talent founders in this new Harold Ramis comedy that doesn't exactly recall his glory days of "Caddyshack" and "Groundhog Day."

Resembling a cross between the mostly forgotten spoof "Caveman" and Mel Brooks' "History of the World: Part 1," "Year One" is likely to achieve grosses closer to "Land of the Lost" than "The Hangover," demonstrating that audiences might prefer their raucous humor set in the here and now.

Jack Black and Michael Cera star in this Paleolithic buddy movie as Zed and Oh, two cavemen whose hunting-and-gathering skills leave much to be desired. Banished from their village after yet another mishap, they wander the desert, running across various biblical figures and winding up, appropriately enough, in Sodom.

Sounds funny, right? The idea of the highly contemporary Black and Cera interacting with such ancient characters as Cain and Abel as well as Abraham and Isaac even while trying to score with hot babes would seem to hold much promise, which is no doubt why Judd Apatow signed on as one of the producers.

But the script -- co-written by Ramis and the team of Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (NBC's "The Office") -- is strictly bargain basement, offering a plethora of poop, sex and fart jokes and vulgarity without a smidgen of wit.

Black does his Jack Black thing well enough, but the results are by now unfortunately predictable. Cera fares far better, garnering genuine laughs with his deadpan pained reactions to the endless indignities suffered by his character.

Oliver Platt camps it up unmercifully as a hairy high priest fond of hot oil massages; David Cross is all hysterical aggressive id as the murderous Cain (Paul Rudd has an uncredited cameo as the unfortunate Abel); Christopher Mintz-Plasse doesn't make much of an impression as Isaac; and Hank Azaria steals the picture (as usual) as a circumcision-pushing Abraham.

June Diane Raphael and Juno Temple are appealing romantic interests for Black and Cera's characters, and Olivia Wilde ("House"), sporting a high-toned British accent, is a suitably gorgeous princess. Also showing up for brief appearances are Vinnie Jones, Horatio Sanz and Bill Hader, among others.

As has become the norm, the closing credits are accompanied by outtakes far funnier than what made it into the finished picture. Well, at least the actors had fun.

Opens: Friday, June 19 (Columbia)
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