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Abomination unto the Lord

“Year One” invokes wrath with cheap, lame comedy.

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And lo, it came to pass in “Year One” that there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And that was only during the first few jokes.
Bear witness to Oh (Michael Cera), one of two Biblical-era heroes, making the moves on fellow hunter-gatherer Eema (Juno Temple), who tells him she can't go out because she needs to wash her hair. “But you just washed your hair last year,” he responds. Oh, brother.

“Year One” is prehistoric comedy all right. But it is also eerily contemporary, for director Harold Ramis hath created “Year One” in the graven image of “Superbad” and its post-ironic, proud-to-be-silly brethren. Oh's best buddy, Zed (Jack Black), mumbles that the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge “tastes kind of knowledge-y.” Cera, doing the same whimpering, skinny-white-boy Woody Allen he always does (maybe can only do), drops the occasional droll one-liner, as when, at the site of a virgin sacrificed in a whoosh of flames, he meekly asks the guy next to him, “Are sacrificed virgins always female?”

The buddy-picture setup had the potential to be that decent all the time. Oh and Zed are supposed to be hapless, inexperienced audience surrogates, dumbfounded rubes learning what civilization is all about. Their funniest experience is provided by a wild-eyed Hank Azaria as Abraham, who explains his new concept, circumcision, to Zed and Oh's confused dismay.

The scene is a rare feast amid much famine, including cheap sight gags, tedious pantomiming and plain-Old Testament filler. The movie isn't helped by its slapdash feel, where the Fertile Crescent is played by what looks like rural North Carolina and the costumes look like they were cobbled together at Halloween stores. They spent some $60 million on this? If the low-rent look was intended to be funny, it didn't work.

The nadir arrives fittingly enough during a trip to Sodom, where, you guessed it, “what happeneth in Sodom stayeth in Sodom.” With lines like that, who needs stoning? (PG-13) 100 min. HIIII S

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