Hearing a vintage Cracker song at the conclusion of Year One is nice and all, but Harold Ramis probably should have picked another song besides “I See the Light” given that it includes the following refrain:
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel now / Someone please tell me it’s not a train.”
Playing chicken with this dreary, dumb comedy is far more hazardous to your health than chancing it on the tracks, though.
Like Land of the Lost, another big-budget summer-comedy dud, Year One careens from one scene to the next with little regard for laughter or cohesion — bad enough to possibly be the nail in producer Judd Apatow’s coffin. In just four years, Apatow has gone from comedy gourmand to McDonald-izing his brand. Seriously, in how many movies can a cougar attack a man for laughs?
And it takes a lot of work to render Paul Rudd, David Cross and Hank Azaria unfunny, but co-writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky furiously accomplish that. Woe the Ghostbusters 3 script on which they’re reportedly collaborating with Ramis.
That Ramis — the mastermind of Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and a handful of other great comedies — could muster only this should come as no surprise to anyone unfortunate enough to not claw their eyes out during The Ice Harvest. Or Analyze That. Or Bedazzled. Ramis has simply forgotten how to be funny.
Had Year One come on the heels of Stripes or National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ramis might have attempted something existential or a takedown of organized religion’s more lurid, violent aspects. With all the sacrifices and hypocrisies on display for the sake of godliness in Year One — as well the fact that everyone claiming to be a devout Christian turns out to be a self-serving jerk — that’s what he should do.
But like The Invention of Lying, Ramis torturously teases with atheistic satire, although patience is a mighty virtue indeed for someone who can sit through this without wincing at its awfulness.
In an era when such a satire would be welcomed, Ramis can’t be bothered — too busy interrupting biblical incidents like Cain & Abel and Abraham & Isaac in vaudevillian manners and depicing Sodom as a prehistoric Vegas — complete with a “What happens in Sodom stays in Sodom” tagline. Also, someone yells “Sodomize this!” as an action cry. Blown-out oral sex allusions with bananas and beef kabobs abound, and verbose, vapid riffs on virgins are plentiful.
And when in doubt, the man who once gave us Groundhog Day resorts to making Jack Black eat feces and Michael Cera pee in his own mouth. Yes, this is Harold Ramis. Yes, this is the level of comedy akin to the monkey in the YouTube video.
Black and Cera are Zed and Oh, hunter-gatherers not good at either hyphenated activity who are booted from their tribe. When Zed eats of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he’s emboldened to set off for the city, where the duo runs afoul of a homicidal, hirsute high priest.
In that role, Oliver Platt generates the mildest of grotesque chuckles; “tell a story on my nipples,” he implores to Oh as he’s oiled up. And Cera’s nervy dryness still works in small doses, but we’re forced to watch him parade around in frighteningly skimpy loincloths that make those Juno shorts look like a snowsuit.
Throw in a score from Theodore Shapiro last seen masquerading as a Citizen Cope backbeat and cheap filmmaking that couldn’t feel any less polished if a boom mike dropped down into the frame or a cameraman were reflected in a Sodomite’s urn. You get the sense Ramis and company hoped to offer some sort of ribald spin on a Bing Crosby-Bob Hope movie. In that sense then, consider Year One the road to hell.