Harold Ramis, the man that brought you Ghostbusters and Animal House, has NOT done it again. Year One is a plotless romp through the early, recorded history with some funny jokes and gags. Unfortunately, the plot is loosely based on Jack Black (Zed) eating from the tree of knowledge, with a bedtime story message haphazardly tacked on at the end, that leaves you wanting more.
The story is about Zed and his buddy Oh (Michael Cera) who are the misfits of a small caveman village. They don't fit the mold of either hunter or gatherer, but Zed, being the obvious leader of the two, tries to prove everyone wrong and eats the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. Since it's forbidden, Zed is cast out and Oh follows; this is where they first meet Cain (David Cross) and Able (Paul Rudd). Cain is actually the savior of this film, as he randomly pops up, throwing wrenches into Zed and Oh's journey. Later, the two (Zen & Oh) come across Abraham (Hank Azaria) and Issac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), since Mclovin is never more than 100 yards away from Cera in movies or real life. Zed and Oh eventually make it to Sodom, where they save the day. In doing so, they prove that you don't have to sacrifice virgins to get rain and you can form your own destiny.
The best parts of the film are the smaller rolls played by funnier people then Cera: Vinnie Jones as the head guard, Oliver Platt as the high priest, and Bill Hader as the village witch doctor. Jack Black is a ball of comedic energy in his films, and he does not stray from that in Year One. Recently, Black solidified himself as a Hollywood funny man with Kung Fu Panda, and I, myself, am a fan of Envy and Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny.
Michael Cera is a great ensemble player in Arrested Development, Superbad, and Juno, so you would think pairing him with Black should turn out well? Yes and no. Yes, it works early on, but after awhile Cera's awkward whining really wears on you, and I think I know why. In Arrested Development and his other roles, he had someone else to step in and take over a scene, but in this film, Cera gets a lot of screen time without Black, which shows that he can't hold his own; even in the scenes with Black, he is shaky. Cera needs this character of George Michael to die.
At the very least, Ramis needed to realize something wasn't sounding right. I blame Ramis and Cera for making the movie suffer, while on the other hand, Black breaks out his character "fat love machine" a few times and it is hilarious. Black knows, unlike Cera, when to act aloof and when to give the audience a break. I really wanted to see two things from this movie: I wanted to see Ramis blend Black and Cera's styles of comedy together and I wanted to see Sodom get destroyed in the end.
Instead you get little chuckles and very few big laughs.