How bad was it?
While not an official Shithouse film for a number of reasons, including me not being Matt, the Shithouse is the only possible place Year One could hope to find a home. This is the worst film I’ve seen in years, a misfire that should be well-remembered as a textbook failure. It seems that most of the people involved with the film realized it was hopeless and stopped trying almost immediately. I quickly started looking at things like the way the shots are framed and it often just seemed arbitrary. A lot of stills would look like someone’s camera going off by mistake while on vacation at a bad theme park. Most of the film’s soundtrack is kind of pseudo-period music, then there’s one scene that has a hip-hop soundtrack for no identifiable reason. Then it goes back to pseudo-period music. And just generally torturing the viewer.
The main reason I noticed these things is that, when not trying to catch a nap, I was as bored as Hedonismbot at an Earth Crisis concert in Salt Lake City. The first part of the $75 million film consists of little more than Jack Black and Michael Cera walking around and riffing. This is almost never a good idea, but especially so with two character actors who are perennial second bananas and who usually react to other characters and situations. So we’re left with Jack Black being overconfident and loud and Cera being shy as the two plod around in the woods doing nothing. It’s kind of like Waiting for Godot, if Waiting for Godot was a pile of shit that stunk to the heavens.
Why is George Michael in so many movies?
I have no idea. I liked Arrested Development as much as anybody, but it wasn’t that popular and George Michael wasn’t as good as some of the other characters. So who can say what was going through the minds of the producers and directors who have asked Cera to reprise the role somewhere between sixty and eighty times? He is especially bad here because he’s clearly meant to bring more to the table. This is a comedy duo film in the vein of Dumb & Dumber, in which the actors must dominate the screen, yet Cera’s contributions are 1) being shy and girlish and 2) softly muttering delayed retorts and insults because his character is afraid to be assertive. And seriously, when’s that voice gonna drop?
But wasn’t the part where they go to Sodom at least kind of cool (please tell me they didn’t use a “what happens in Sodom stays in Sodom joke.”)?
I briefly emerged from my stupor when they got to Sodom, but it was a complete disappointment. There was a bit of build up about the decadence of the city and I was kind of curious about how it would be depicted, even in a film so bad as this one. Really, it was just your generic 2000-year-old movie city. The only scene that differentiated it from any other such setting was a pathetically tame orgy. Like most Hollywood shit-cannon backfires, this film is governed by compromise and part of that was the PG-13 rating. So there are several long scenes set in what everyone calls an orgy, but it isn’t an orgy. Again, because the foreground was so devoid of anything interesting, my eyes drifted to the background, where fully clothed extras had been told to sway about suggestively. One man had a woman slung over his shoulder and was just kind of walking around in a circle. It’s kind of like Caligula if Caligula was even worse than it already is.
Even rehashing Austin Powers and having objects conveniently blocking action and nudity to a theoretically humorous extreme would have been preferable. Any kind of implication that someone might be having sex or play with the fact that they couldn’t actually show an orgy would have been an improvement. Instead we are just given prolonged scenes of an orgy where nobody is doing anything. Oh, and yes, “what happens within the walls of Sodom, stays within the walls of Sodom.” So should you ever visit Sodom, rest assured, nobody will spill the beans about you not doing anything.
Was there any good action?
No! I can’t say which is worse, the action, or the comedy, but this is a good place to pick an example of how half-assed and aimless this film is. When Jack Black and Cera meet the Hebrews, prior to going to Sodom, the Heebs go on and on about how Sodom is going to be destroyed by God at any moment and anyone who is in the city will be destroyed too. Even going there on a righteous mission to rescue slaves would be ill-advised because of the imminent destruction of the city. Shortly thereafter, in Sodom, there’s this big scuffle during which the King is about the be spontaneously killed by an angry mob. The Hebrews, magically anticipating this, have snuck in dressed as poor people and throw off their disguises and pull out their weapons. So, obviously, this makes no sense because 1) the Hebrews should be afraid of being destroyed by God and 2) it is pointless, and maybe even insulting to God to attack a city he is about to destroy with his raygun of wrath anyway.
On top of that, the Jews don’t do anything after they reveal themselves. Like, they literally don’t throw a punch or swing a blade. The Jews reveal themselves and pull out their weapons. Almost simultaneously, the palace guards turn on the king and kill him. Then Cera and Black burn the gay high priest alive, because gays are evil. Then everything is peaceful again. There is no reason for the Hebrews to be there. They don’t do anything. Really, nothing at all. The whole movie is that slapdash and pointless. It’s kind of like Israel.
Where there any funny parts?
Yes. Out of the 180 jokes, most of which were just based on the fact that people in olden times were ignorant (“What are those round things?” “They’re called wheels, dummy!” Hurrr.) or primitive (“The lady has hairy armpits!” Durrr.) there were two good ones. When Abraham comes up with the idea of circumcision he says to Black and Cera, something like, “wait right here. I just have to get my knife and I’ll be right back to cut your penises!” Also, Cera is hung upside down in a dungeon and, after a long struggle, he finally has to piss. I laughed out loud at the result, because I am a monkey.
What about all the bible stuff?
Typically, the film refuses to really take a stand and winds up a garbled mess. Many of the biblical stories are portrayed as mortal bungling, suggesting the bible is just a bunch of stories rather than the word of god. After suggesting that god doesn’t exist, Cera prays to him “in case you DO exist.” Then Jack Black, anointed the chosen one, renounces the position and gives a grand speech to his newly devoted followers claiming that we are all chosen ones who must take destiny in to our own hands. It’s like The Life of Brian, if The Life of Brian’s blasphemy was restricted to the implication that god made men who made such a bad movie.