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.