Year One (UK - BD)
Marcus ain't going to smite this comedy but he might throw some stones at it...
Jungle folk Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are banished from their village and head off to discover how far they can go before they reach the end of the world. Meeting many historical, biblical and just plain kooky characters along the way, the pair end up in the infamous city of Sodom.
Now I’m not being coy when writing that brief synopsis for Year One. I’m not trying to hide the twists and turns or guarding a well kept plot secret; Year One is frankly that simple and one note. Two guys leave one place, visit a few others and end up somewhere else, only for the story to seemingly get going just as the credits role.
That is the biggest let down of the movie and unfortunately the simple and loose approach to events just doesn’t leave you either satisfied or particularly fond of what you’ve just seen. That said, Year One has a couple of saving graces and they come in the form of the two leads. I’ll watch absolutely anything with Jack Black and Michael Cera, both bring a smile to my face with all of their work to date and both have been in many roles I’ve a great deal of fondness for. Year One isn't a career highlight for either of them but has them both doing the acts they’re much loved for and they’re bouncing it off of each other, so the ninety odd minutes we spend with the two of them sails by.
Jack Black plays the deluded overconfident dude with his usual gusto and Michael Cera and his uncanny sense of timing provides more of his beautifully delivered subtly witty lines as well as ever and when these two 'just about' friends come up against the likes of Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd—again two actors I adore) I can’t deny that I enjoy them all eating up the gags even if they don’t always hit.
As the story travels through its biblical locations and characters (some of which work—most of which don’t) we get a great little turn from Hank Azaria playing Abraham whose repetitive pronunciation of the phrase ‘Lord thy God!’ consistently put a grin on my face. All of these travels bring us to Sodom and everything gets a little more standard—around the same time the movie realises that it had better pull a plot out of the bag before the credits arrive. Sadly it’s all a little too predictable to be that enjoyable, characters do exactly what you think they will and things wind up precisely how you’d imagine and really, for what was initially hyped as a Monty Python style romp Year One ends up being more akin to a Carry On movie and not one of the better ones either.
As with many of the Sony titles, Year One's transfer is pretty damn flawless and its mainly down to much of the film being out in the open. Bright sunshine, natural lighting and a great glowing image makes for a pleasant experience even if the slight lack of detail prevents it from being really impressive.
Internal scenes are well lit with plenty of oranges, golds and bright warm scenery providing more to show off the HD format's vast superiority over standard definition and generally Year One does a great job of making a fairly mediocre movie look great.
I found the dialogue to be a little overpowering in the overall mix here, never in a bad way, but when compared to the atmospheric sounds filling out the rest of the track it felt a bit too prominent. Even when backed up with music, the dialogue knocked down the score a few more pegs than usual.
Basically the entire track is a little bland with a few spikes in the 'just about' action sequences and other than the odd use of echo, the range of the DTS Master Audio track does very little to impress.
For starters there's a theatrical cut (01:36:00 HD) and an unrated cut (01:39:00 HD) of which the additional three minutes make little difference.
The commentary with Ramis, Black and Cera is a welcome addition and if you read between the lines you can sort of tell they know movie's failures. What starts as quite fun and talky soon slips into quiet moments, hyping up some of the small role actors and highlighting some of the prettier sets and shots.
Next up we get a few of the Sony exclusive features which this time include 'Cinechat', 'The Cutting Room' (where you can edit your own scenes together and post them on BD-Live) and 'Movie IQ', a web based fact track that throws trivia and info at you about the movie. These all come with short instructional videos and are quite fun to play with.
Moving onto the alternative ending (08:13 HD), the deleted scenes (x2 HD), extended and alternative scenes (x10), Line-O-Rama (05:10 HD) and Gag Reels (08:28 HD) we get a glimpse at things that might have been, if different decisions had been made. In all honesty nothing really shows off what could have made the movie any better and other than an okay-ish gag reel and the line ‘I’m going to smite the shit out of you’ there’s no extra memorable laughs lost in the editing room.
‘Year One: The Journey Begins’ (17:52 HD) is a pretty dull, generic making of but comes with a good amount of detail on the production and rounding up there’s a small spoof advert for Sodom ‘Sodom’s Got ‘em’ (02:08 HD), a Vinnie Jones heavy sketch called ‘Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodon’ (02:08 HD) and trailers for Year One, Paul Blart, Angels and Demons, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Julie and Julia, Nick and Norah and a Sony Blu-ray reel
Year One has more than its fair share of great lines but with such a weakly executed plot not trying all that hard to keep it all together, everything ends up a little tedious. Same can be said for the features, and with a fairly lazy audio track it's really only the HD transfer that is anything to shout about. Overall, Year One isn’t as bad as some have said, but it would still be a hard job for anyone trying to defend it.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 2nd November 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Description Track English
Subtitles: English, English HoH, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Cinechat, Movie IQ, Cutting Room, Making of, Gag Reel, Alternative, Deleted, Extended Scenses, Trailers, Line-O-Rama.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Jack Black, Michael Cera
Length: 100 minutes
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