Michael Cera states in the Harold Ramis written/directed comedy Year One, “What’s with all of the genital cutting?”
That’s a great question for Mr. Ramis. What is up with the genital cutting? Not only does the audience get to hear the first circumcision (thought up while drunk of course), a man has his testicles cut off, but keeps them in a bag in his pocket. Of course, that’s a plot point, because at a stoning later in the film, they’re thrown at the main characters.
It’s partly disturbing, but you can’t help but giggle if your sense of humor can appreciate a good fart joke. Besides, that’s the target audience for this Jack Black/Michael Cera comedy, aiming for the lowest common denominator but still generating laughs for that crowd.
There is nothing wrong with that. It may not require sharp wit or smart writing, but if you can’t laugh at a guy forced to pee in his own face, what can you laugh at?
Year One has it all, from an extended fart joke, statues with large elongated poles sticking out from a specific part of their body, puking, crap eating, boner gags, pubic hair, fat hairy guys, gay jokes, and the quintessential tongue up the nose sight gag during the closing outtakes. Okay, maybe the last one isn’t quintessential, but kudos to Jack Black for actually trying it.
The limited story, that of two outcast cavemen trying to find their way in the world, is there purely to set up gags about various ancient cultures. See History of the World Part 1 for the basics on how this can be done right. Year One still delivers small, immature giggles throughout, most of which will probably be embarrassing to much of the audience, and offensive to those who have strong religious backgrounds.
But hey, letting your guard down once in a while to enjoy something this brain dead comes with being human. That’s an aspect of being alive the juvenile Year One lets you partake in, and it’s still a step up from being a virgin in this movie. Ouch.
Sony graces Year One with a fine, slightly flawed AVC encode. The transfer begins with a strong black level presence, and bright contrast. Colors are saturated wonderfully, and flesh tones are accurate.
Facial detail is fine, if somewhat flat. Long shots of crowded cities or forests are maintained without aliasing or artifacting. Nighttime scenes are slightly murky, lacking the refinement of those shot during the day. Sharpness is high throughout, with marginal softness sporadically affecting the transfer. Light film grain is intact without causing any artifacting problems.
Aside from the finale, Year One has little to work with beyond the room-filling score. The ending in Sodom, with its crashing construction site, thunder, rain, crowd cheering, and fighting is quite lively. The low end is strong and the surround activity is immersive. Dialogue is handled well amongst the chaos, always clear and understandable. This is an adequate mix that doesn’t have a chance to show off until the final moments.
Note: Both the theatrical and unrated cuts are included on the Blu-ray. The unrated version contains stronger language and runs for about three minutes longer.
Sony is pushing BD-Live with Year One, including three online enabled features. The first is CineChat, a common inclusion on Sony discs, and a rather large waste of space. Movie IQ is innovative, allowed the user to pull updated data on the actors or scenes when prompted, clearing up confusion about the actors or trivia that may come up while watching. The third is the Cutting Room, an editing feature that lets you cut scenes as you want, typically causing them to make no sense at all.
A commentary from director Harold Ramis along with stars Jack Black and Michael Cera begins the feature set on the disc itself. An alternate ending is surprisingly elaborate (and undoubtedly expensive to shoot), but comes with a commentary to explain the wise deletion. Twelve deleted/extended scenes follow.
Year One: The Journey Begins is the key featurette, rather promotional in nature although nicely detailed, particularly when it comes to the costumes. A gag reel and improv collections are quite funny, closing in on 14 minutes combined. Sodom’s Got ‘Em is a mildly amusing promotional video for volunteer slaves within the city. Leroy Jenkins: Gates of Sodom is a parody of a classic internet World of Warcraft video.