Year One (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence. (edited; originally Rated R for some sexual content and language.)
Length: 97 minutes
Grade: FDFF=F
Budget: $60 million
Box Office: $58 million (43 U.S., 15 Intl.)

Written by: Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Bedazzled, Groundhog Day, Stripes, Caddyshack, and Animal House), Gene Stupnitsky (TV’s The Office), and Lee Eisenberg (TV’s The Office)
Directed by: Harold Ramis (Analyze That, Multiplicity, Bedazzled, Groundhog Day, Vacation, and Caddyshack)
Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde, and June Diane Raphael.

In this send-up of the Old Testament, two primitive hunter-gatherers cross a variety of other civilizations as they encounter several of the stories from Genesis after eating the forbidden fruit.

Entertainment Value: F
So here’s the natural question: Why didn’t we stop watching this? I asked my wife one time whether we should stop. I asked her in another twenty minutes. And finally, about an hour in, I asked, “Don’t we want to be able to tell people we quit watching this movie?” Well, my final solution was to simply go to sleep for the last half hour. Trust me when I say I know I didn’t miss anything. This is classic Jack Black, by which I mean that it is not funny. Michael Cera has a couple of funny lines, but this is no movie you want to watch.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol C , Sex/Nudity D, Violence D, Language D+
This was originally rated R and then downgraded to PG-13 on appeal, but I agree with the original rating. This is saturated with innuendo. Seriously, saturated. And there are a couple of longer scenes that are sexual without nudity but disturbing for their length, such as a prostitute eating a banana and a young man rubbing oil on a priest’s hairy chest. One scene is an orgy in the background with no nudity. There are jokes about incest, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, circumcision, you name it. Violence involves sacrificing virgins, fratricide, a spear being thrown into another man in the back, circumcision implied during screams, and eating excrement. Profanity is as much as can be without getting an R rating, under today’s standards, sadly. There are some references to marijuana and some alcohol consumption. This is definitely PG-15, and I would say R, but the fact that it’s just a terrible movie should keep all rational humans away from watching it.

Significant Content: F
The Bible is unbelievable. Religious people are stupid. Sexual morality is whatever you want it to be, but promiscuity is encouraged. The worst thing is to die a virgin. Primitive mythologies and authoritarian regimes should be overthrown.

Artistic/Thought Value: F
They mash up the stories of the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, the sacrifice of Isaac, circumcision, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Tabernacle in a way that is both not clever and inaccurate. The intent is clearly both to present these stories in a satirical way which makes all the Biblical ideas and people stupid or worse. For instance, Abraham is stopped from killing Isaac by Zed and Oh, not God. Abraham then revels in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, rather than begging God to have mercy if there are any righteous inhabitants there. See, the key to good satire is to first get the facts straight and then present something within those boundaries which pokes fun. To call this straw man satire is almost too generous, which is surprising because Ramis was raised Jewish (he’s non-religious now). His grasp of these stories is clearly superficial and not at all based in anything resembling Biblical knowledge. I’ll be honest, I’m not a screenplay writer, but I could have made this script much funnier and have done so within the bounds of accuracy. The basic ideas for humor are here, but the execution is just terrible.
Discussion Questions:
~Given the patently strange idea of circumcision, how can you explain both Abraham’s willingness to accept it and the other people of his household as well?
~Zed and Oh find the descriptions of Sodom and Gomorrah appealing. Why? Do you find the idea of permissive sexual norms appealing? Is this a result of normal human impulses or a result of our sinful natures? Discuss the ways sex is used to persuade you to buy things these days.
~Can you name all the ways in which this movie deviates from the way things are described in the Bible? Does this seem like the satire of someone who loves the Scriptures, hates the Scriptures, or doesn’t know the Scriptures?
Overall Grade: F
Don’t do it. Let me repeat. Don’t do it. You’ll be sorry. And if you disregard my warnings, at least have the decency to shoot me an email and admit that you ran right through my stop sign and got thrown out at home.

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