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Building a House of Gas and Dung: Harold Ramis' latest isn't exactly Caddyshack 

Tenacious Archery time with JB.Little boys, whatever their ages, have always loved permission to laugh at potty humor. Like baseball, number two pencils, and visiting

click to enlarge Tenacious Archery time with JB.
  • Tenacious Archery time with JB.
Tenacious Archery time with JB.Little boys, whatever their ages, have always loved permission to laugh at potty humor. Like baseball, number two pencils, and visiting your parents, jokes about feces and farting draw out that inner child like nothing else can. Harold Ramis recognizes this. So he wrote and directed Jack Black's new movie, Year One.

Ramis has a great resume dating back to Caddyshack and Ghostbusters. But let's face it, houses built largely of dung and gas generally don't hold up. And Year One is no exception.

But there are redeeming moments. In fact, cameos by Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria are brilliant. Azaria plays Abraham to Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Isaac. And there are bits, moments and high points where you're surprised in ways that are original and funny. And Azaria and Platt are in many of them.


But it's a film to showcase Black (and if you're a Black fan, you'll find much to like here) and the very surprising Michael Cera, whose face appears if you Google the word "angelic." Cera has most of the good lines when the two are on screen, and it is his low key, off key, nerdy understatement that often keeps the film from stalling.

Black is the hunter and Cera the gatherer as the film opens. Both fail miserably at their appointed tasks and are voted out of the village. Awaiting them as they hopscotch from skit to skit through the ancient world are some familiar Biblical moments as well as the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, the city of Sodom. It is in that fabled city where the movie gets a nice jolt from the flamboyantly effeminate Oliver Platt as the King of Sodom's High Priest.

Platt takes the baton from Azaria who had stolen the movie in the previous ten minutes as Abraham about to plunge his saber through Isaac's chest. The two are old pals and joined forces for one of Showtime's best series, Huff, a few years ago. Without giving away anymore of the film than the trailer already has, suffice it to say humor is subjective and wildly dependent on age, mood, when you watch the movie and perhaps even the person you're with. I was alone with a theater of young adults. And the laughs I heard were few and far between.

So, my wariness that I'm not the demographic they're after may well be true, but the target demographic didn't exactly make the theater shake with merriment either. And while you might not expect much more from this premise, some of us expect a little more from Ramis.

Year One ★★✩✩
Starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt. Directed by Harold Ramis. Rated PG-13.

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