After watching Superbad recently, I felt a hankering to give Year One (2009) another spin. Although it got fairly negative reviews when it was released, I must have seen this movie three or four times already, and I still find it very funny and engaging. Obviously it suffers in comparison to the satirical genius of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and the plot gets a bit shaggy in the final act… but taken as a series of silly sketches about the old-timey days, there’s a lot here to enjoy. For those who don’t know, the story follows a boorish boar hunter named ‘Zed’ (Jack Black), who is banished from his tribe’s village after he eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He’s accompanied on this walk of shame by his softly-spoken gatherer friend ‘Oh’ (Michael Cera), as they set off on an epic quest to find their place in the world, and prove their worth to their respective unrequited crushes. Along the way they encounter such Biblical characters as Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd), Adam (writer/director Harold Ramis), Abraham (Hank Azaria), and Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). How’s that for an all-star comedy cast, eh?
There are some mighty fine female performers in the movie too: First up is June Diane Raphael as ‘Maya’, who admits that she’s amused by Zed’s antics, but believes that the village’s alpha male, ‘Marlak’, would make a more respectable mate. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a scene where she casually reveals her armpit hair, and it’s presented as a “sight gag”… but I actually think it kinda suits her. While both of the female leads look fantastic throughout the movie in their various different guises, there’s something about the “primitive” style they’re rocking in the early village scenes that really floats my boat. Ahem. I think Raphael is hilarious here… she does some great business in her scenes with Black, and the shot of her cheerfully bobbing along in a drugged-up haze while being led towards the sacrificial idol is just adorable! Next up is Juno Temple as ‘Eema’, who is too busy suggestively rubbing the hunky hunters’ spear shafts to pay any attention to the gawky, ineffectual Oh. Temple looks as ridiculously pretty as ever here… and she has some very sweet, funny exchanges with Cera, as he bumbles his way into her affections. The scenes where they (sort of) dance together and (almost) hug are brilliantly awkward, but they really do make a cute couple… and since both actors prefer to underplay the comedy, there’s a nice contrast between their characters and the more extroverted Zed/Maya combo. It’s a little weird hearing Temple adopt a slight American accent for the part, but since pretty much everyone else in the cast was American or Canadian, I guess it makes sense… and there’s no harm in showing off your versatility to other potential employers!
Meanwhile, Eden Riegel has a supporting role as Cain’s snitch of a sister ‘Lilith’… and Gia Carides is totally wasted in a one-line cameo as ‘The Queen’ of Sodom. Tch!