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Harold Ramis
Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde
Writing Credits:
Harold Ramis (and story), Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg

Meet your ancestors.

History was made ... by these guys? Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are cavemen who stumble out of the mountains into an epic journey of biblical proportions. One's a bumbling hunter, the other's a gentle gatherer; together, they become unlikely participants in history's most pivotal moments. Directed and co-written by comedy legend Harold Ramis, Year One is rude, crude, wildly absurd, deliciously tasteless and laugh-out-loud funny!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$19.610 million on 3022 screens.
Domestic Gross
$43.337 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Original Theatrical Version:
97 min.
Unrated Edition:
100 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 10/6/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Harold Ramis and Actors Jack Black and Michael Cera
• “The Year One Cutting Room”
• Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes
• Extended/Alternate Scenes
• “Line-O-Rama”
• Gag Reel
• “Year One: The Journey Begins” Featurette
• “Sodom’s Got ‘Em!” Featurette
• “Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom” Featurette
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Year One [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 8, 2009)

Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost went down as the most prominent box office flop of summer 2009; with a massive budget and Ferrell’s star power, its $49 million gross was a severe disappointment. Because it didn’t cost as much and it came with lower commercial expectations, Year One wasn’t viewed as a similarly big bomb, but most involved sure thought it’d do better than its poor $43 million take.

Personally, I thought Year One looked pretty awful from the get-go, but I’ve been wrong in the past, so I figured I’d give it a look on home video just in case it actually provided a misjudged comedic gem. We head back to the BC era and meet a couple of cavemen. Hunter Zed (Jack Black) and gatherer Oh (Michael Cera) live as outcasts in their society. Zed lusts after sexy Maya (June Diane Raphael), but she wants someone who’s a more effective provider – like big, brawny Marlak (Matthew J. Willig). Oh longs for Eema (Juno Temple), but she doesn’t even know that he’s alive.

Desperate to break out of their rut, Zed eats forbidden fruit. This doesn’t go well, and he finds himself evicted from their society. Oh reluctantly comes along as well, and they explore a world beyond their clan’s known boundaries. This leads them to meet a variety of Biblical personalities, spend time in Sodom, and cross other historical paths.

If you expect Year One to expand our views of Black and Cera as performers, you’ll find disappointment. Actually, Black occasionally ventures into different cinematic territory, but Year One finds him as his usual loud, blustery self. Black doesn’t break a sweat; this is such a stereotypical Black performance that it borders on self-parody.

Perhaps there’s more to Cera than meets the eye. If so, the guy needs to expand his horizons right away, as his quiet, mumbly sensitive dude MO is getting old in a major hurry. I liked him in Superbad, but he started to grow annoying in Juno, and his shtick doesn’t improve here. Despite the historical twist, Year One has him play the same role as usual, and his presence becomes a definite distraction. Cera lacks the charm or personality to make the part work.

Not that I think Year One would’ve been much better with actors other than Cera and Black in tow. Director Harold Ramis has some nice films under his belt like Caddyshack or Groundhog Day. However, he’s not produced a hit since 1999’s Analyze This, and Year One makes me wonder if he possesses the ability to create something good anymore.

Much of the attempted humor in Year One stems from the anachronistic portrayal of the various characters and scenarios. Though we’re sent millennia into the past, most of the participants speak and act like more modern folk. We’re supposed to be amused by this, but the jokes tend to be pretty predictable. Seriously, does the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” bit in Sodom take anyone by surprise?

In addition to the anachronistic gags, we find two other categories of jokes: slapstick and gross-out. None of these prove to be amusing. They’re also relentlessly predictable and lack any vague form of cleverness.

I don’t mind the film’s melange of historical elements, though I don’t think its Whitman’s Sampler viewpoint works. Maybe if the story cohered in some way, I could better enjoy it, but the tale doesn’t go anywhere. I get the feeling Ramis and his cohorts really liked Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1 and wanted to emulate it.

The Brooks flick was no classic, but it worked better than the tedious, unfunny Year One. Predictable, dopey and humorless, the movie drags for its 100 minutes and never threatens to entertain.

Note that this Blu-ray includes both the theatrical “PG-13” version of the film and an unrated cut. The former runs 97 minutes, while the latter goes for 100 minutes. I watched the unrated edition for my review. I never saw the original “PG-13” Year One, so I can’t comment specifically on the changes, though some alterations were obvious. While we got no nudity, we found profanity that wouldn’t fly in a “PG-13” movie. Anyway, I expect most fans will opt for the unrated edition.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Year One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, this was a very appealing transfer.

At all times, sharpness looked great. If any softness marred the presentation, I missed it; I found nothing but solid delineation and clarity here. I saw no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. No issues with source flaws materialized either, as the movie always remained clean and fresh.

In terms of colors, the flick went with a somewhat golden tone that fit its setting. We expect these hues for movies set in Ye Olden Dayes, so the colors worked fine. They were consistently warm and lively. Blacks looked deep and firm, and shadows were usually fine. A few shots seemed a little thick, but most of the scenes displayed good clarity. Overall, this was a terrific presentation.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Year One, it was competent and not much more. The soundfield tended to be pretty restrained. Music showed nice stereo imaging, and a few scenes opened up the spectrum a little better; for instance, a thunderstorm added some zest to the presentation. However, much of the time the movie stayed with general ambience. Crowd/street scenes showed decent involvement, but nothing here used the spectrum in a particularly interesting manner.

Audio quality was satisfying. Speech always appeared distinctive and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music was full and rich, while effects showed good clarity. Those elements didn’t do a whole lot, but they were accurate and tight. Though the track lacked much to make it stand out, it was perfectly acceptable.

Quite a few supplements flesh out the disc. We open with an audio commentary from director Harold Ramis and actors Jack Black and Michael Cera. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, various gags, sets and locations, and a mix of general production notes.

With three prominent participants, you might hope for a commentary that’s both fun and informative. Unfortunately, like the film itself, this chat is neither. For the most part, the three speakers just laugh at the film and praise it. We also find a fair amount of dead air. Occasionally we learn something mildly interesting about the flick, but usually this discussion is a bore.

For an unusual interactive feature, we find The Year One Cutting Room. This allows you to create your own edits for some parts of the film. Alas, it requires an external storage capability that my player lacks, but it sounds like fun. It certainly appears to offer more power than the average limited editing feature found on some DVDs.

In terms of cut footage, we find an Alternate Ending and two Deleted Scenes. Entitled “Sodom Destruction”, the alternate ending runs eight minutes, 13 seconds, and depicts what its title states. It’s certainly a more action-oriented finish to the film, and it’s no worse than the film’s actual conclusion, and it might be a little more satisfying.

For the deleted scenes, we get “Zed & Marlak” (2:52) and “Splooge” (1:10). The first comes from early in the film and shows those characters’ conflict over Maya. “Splooge” lets us see more with Zed, Maya and Cain in the palace. Both are eminently forgettable.

We can watch the “Alternate Ending” with or without commentary from Ramis, Black and Cera. They tell us about the scene and let us know why it was cut. All the useful material appears early, as Ramis relates why he went with the film’s actual conclusion.

More excised clips appear under Extended & Alternate Scenes. We discover 10 of these, and they run a total of 13 minutes, 38 seconds. If you hope for any lost treasure here, you won’t find it. This is more of the same kind of material that appears in the final film; nothing particularly amusing appears.

Line-O-Rama (5:10) provides alternate takes of existing scenes. A staple of releases for Judd Apatow produced movies, we find lots of unused jokes. If you like the film, you’ll enjoy this collection.

Next comes the usual Gag Reel. It runs eight minutes, 28 seconds and features plenty of goof ups and silliness. The presence of so many comedic talents makes it a little more creative than usual, but don’t expect it to rise above its genre’s limitations.

For a look behind the scenes, we go to Year One: The Journey Begins. In this 17-minute and 52-second piece, we hear from Ramis, Black, Cera, writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, costume designer Debra McGuire, production designer Jefferson Sage, animal coordinator Bobbi Colorado and actors David Cross, June Diane Raphael, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hank Azaria, Xander Berkeley, Oliver Platt, Olivia Wilde, and Juno Temple. “Begins” discusses story, cast and characters, costumes and sets, stunts, locations and working with animals.

At no point does “Begins” become a particular involving program, and it tends toward a glossy look at the film. However, it boasts a reasonable amount of information on display, and we get a lot of footage from the set. It’s not a great show, but it’s worth a look.

Two unusual clips follow. Sodom’s Got ‘Em! goes for one minute, 52 seconds as it presents a fake ad to recruit workers to Sodom. It offers marginal amusement.

Finally, Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom lasts two minutes, eight seconds. It presents a little comedy with Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinny Jones and others. It recreates a famous video done for the World of Warcraft computer game. It’s funnier if you know Warcraft, but it’s still strangely entertaining for those without knowledge of the game.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Blu-ray Disc, Angels & Demons, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 and Black Dynamite. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for It Might Get Loud, Whatever Works, The Ugly Truth, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Moon, District 9, Assassination of a High School President, Blood: The Last Vampire and Ghostbusters. The trailer for Year One finishes the set.

One of summer 2009’s biggest busts, I’d like to report that Year One offers a neglected gem. Unfortunately, it wastes a lot of talent and provides precious few laughs. The Blu-ray provides excellent visuals as well as acceptably good audio and supplements. I have no complaints about this release, but the movie itself is an unfunny mess.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.1666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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