If a movie has Judd Apatow’s name somewhere in the credits, it’s bound to make me laugh hard enough to pee my pants. I just associate his name with the type of comedic quality that I’ve seen in movies like Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Role Models. So between that and the fact that the movie has some incredible casting in Michael Sera and Jack Black, I had some pretty high expectations going into Year One. Those expectations, unfortunately, were set a bit too high.
The plot of Year One is pretty predictable. This caveman named Zed, (Jack Black), and his sidekick Oh, (Michael Cera) get kicked out of their caveman village after breaking some rules. After they leave and discover the big wide world outside of their primitive village (including several biblical figures and places that didn’t exist during the time of the cavemen), their home gets destroyed and their girlfriends get kidnapped. The rest of the movie revolves around them rescuing these girlfriends while also learning a little bit about themselves.
Other than the terribly generic plot, Year One’s downfall comes from its halfhearted attempts to be funny. For those of you who watched the trailer and thought the quote about the berries in the fruit salad was hilarious, there isn’t much more of that type of dry, quiet humor consistent with Michael Cera’s roles.
Instead, the movie relies on a lot of jokes about peeing, poop, and private parts. It’s easy to write a joke about Michael Cera peeing on himself because he’s chained upside down in a jail cell. It just feels like a huge step back for the Apatow bunch, whose writers usually bring more of their “A-game” when writing jokes.
The way this movie redeems itself in its incredible cameos, placed perfectly at the moments where the main plot starts to bore you a little. Paul Rudd and David Cross as Cain and Able provided me with the most laughs, especially since Cross accompanies Black and Cera for most of their journey. Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria show up later on, but they’re funny only because you know they’re brilliant actors and not because of the material they’re given.
Meanwhile Black and Cera, while both pretty hilarious guys, end up playing the same characters they always do. With some better writing and a less generic plot, Year One could have turned out to be on par with last year’s summer smash comedies like Pineapple Express. But, while Year One has the big names, it doesn’t bring big laughs. Just minor chuckles.