Spoiler Alert! I spoil everything! Read further at your own risk of Knowledge.
Year One was a very funny movie, but the surprising part was the way that it pointed out how ridiculous people are – back then and now! Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are two dudes in a tribe of 60 or so hunters and gatherers. After failing at everything (i.e. hunting and gathering) Zed comes to the realization that maybe there is more to life than just the life they have in front of them. That sounds very familiar. I suck at everything I try, so why not move somewhere else. Maybe I won’t fail in another part of the world as badly as I’ve failed here. That thought process has crossed all of our minds at least 10 times. Anyways, back to the movie. Of course, everyone knows that if you venture too far into the distance, you will simply fall off the edge of the Earth. But Zed’s not buying it. He decides to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and surprise – nothing happens! But at some point, Zed gets the idea that he is the chosen one. Sound like a familiar archetype?
Zed goes back to the village only to have the girl of his dreams, Maya, tell him that because he’s not good at providing for her, there is no future for them (It was something like this: “Sure you’re funny and all, but that’s pretty damn useless in the long run.”). Then everyone finds out that he had eaten from the tree, and through a completely predictable sequence of events, Zed finds himself venturing into the unknown, far away from his home village in the Garden.
No surprise here. Zed and Oh encounter Cain and Abel, and before you know it Cain is murdering Abel…continuously. I had never really thought about the fact that murder occurs in the Bible very early on. If you ask me, Abel started it. He was kind of a jerk. And the way he died was funny. David Cross playing Cain and Paul Rudd as Abel – this was a brilliant casting choice. Cain takes Zed and Oh back to his father’s house, where good ol’ dad questions Cain about his brother. That’s right. It’s the whole “Am I my brother’s keeper?” routine. I’ve heard so many sermons on this topic. Today when I hear it, I imagine one as Abbott and the other as Costello. It’s become a comedy bit in my mind. But the best part is that Adam is played by Harold Ramis. He’s awesome.
After listening to Cain lie every which was from Sunday, Zed and Oh realize that they’ve gotta get outta there. There was a funny scene involving Lilith, who completely confused Zed about only wanting to lay with women. Then some dude farted all over Oh for the entire night.
Realizing that someone’s going to catch on to the fact that Abel’s dead, Cain ends up giving Zed and Oh a ride out of town (after telling them that they would be blamed). Then Cain sells Zed and Oh into slavery. And then Zed and Oh escape from slavery. Then comes another run-in with two well-known Left Testament characters (yeah, I was the kid in Sunday school who called it the Left Testament). Zed and Oh approach Abraham just as he’s about to kill Isaac on the top of that mountain. Zed yells out and stops Abraham. This is when it really hit me: What the hell was Abraham thinking?
To Zed and Oh, the scene looked amazingly creepy. They have never heard of God(s), and here they are about to witness a murder in God’s name. Today we look at that story and think about how pious and devout Abraham was for following God’s command all the way up until the murder. And we think to ourselves: “Gosh. Now that guy is devoted to God. If only I could be as faithful as Abraham was.” Without any context, Zed and Oh were simply going to witness a murder. Just imagine if this scene played out today. Imagine some guy taking his son up to the roof of a downtown skyscraper and then (almost) killing his son in cold blood. How would that fly in today’s society? What would you think when the guy told the police, “I was only doing what God told me to do.” I would think that guy was cuckoo for Coco Puffs. And therein lies the real observation: People have always been doing crazy things, and people were no different back then. What makes us turn our minds off when hearing this story today? If all Biblical accounts are even remotely close to accurate, Abraham was, by today’s measure, a sociopath who did crazy stuff that God told him to do. I can think of some headlines from my life that involved that very scenario. Some guy doing what God told him to do, and then many people die because of it.
After Zed and Oh convince Abraham not to kill Isaac, Abraham takes them back to their village. It’s here that Zed and Oh first learn about the whores of Sodom and Gomorrah. While Zed and Oh would really like to chase some tail in Sodom, they really just want to go there to rescue their lady friends, Maya and Eema (they were not lucky enough to escape slavery, and Zed overheard that they were going to be taken to Sodom). And then another amazing event occurred: Abraham proposed circumcision for every man int he land. I guess that’s what God was requesting this time. Again, it occurs to me that people did really weird stuff in the name of God. No matter how it was rationalized, wasn’t it strange to attribute it to God. Why didn’t anyone just have the balls to say, “I’m going to cut off my foreskin because I said so.”? Well?
Just after this proposal, Zed and Oh bolted. They were on their way to Sodom. Once they arrived at Sodom, they were taken custody and then I was certain they would be killed. Nope. They were rescued by Cain, who was serving on the royal guard in Sodom. Then Zed and Oh join the Royal Guard of Sodom. The scenes in Sodom were funny and ripe for jokes. And the writers made every opportunity to get every last joke in there, but I applaud their efforts. I mean, with so many possible jokes, I’m glad that someone had the confidence to actually go for it.
Sodom had some issues. The High Priest was this flaming bear of a man who enjoyed Oh’s soft hands and oil lathering skills. The Sodomites would sacrifice virgins to the god(s), presumably for rain. But there was some debate about whether or not any of it worked anyways. At one point Princess Inanna talks Zed into going into the Holiest of Holies. It was a room that only the High Priest could enter. Other people who enter it are immediately killed dead on the spot. But surprise – both Zed and Oh get into the room, and neither of them die. Shocking, right? But Zed knew it all along. After all, he was the chosen one. Apparently so. As it turns out, Princess Inanna and/or Cain sold them out, and next thing you know, both Zed and Oh are on trial for all sorts of crimes (one of which was the refusal of sodomy). And also, the crime of hyperbole.
This scene was fantastic. When Cain was reading off the list of crimes, I was practically falling out of my plush movie chair. Zed and Oh are sentenced to death by stoning, and just as it had been all movie long, Oh takes the brunt of the brutality and bad luck. But then it occurs to Zed that he is the only person to enter the Holiest of Holies and not die an instant death. He must be the chosen one. The crowd reacts to this in a positive way, and the King has them sentenced to life in slavery. And through another random yet predictable sequence of events, Zed and Oh rescue the Princess, save their lady friends and oust the King and the High Priest.
But the real message came at the end when Zed said something like this: “Don’t worship me. Don’t follow me. Follow yourself. You have a voice. Create your own destiny. Make your own fate. Live your life.” These are simple, cliché statements. However, after watching this movie and seeing some of the weird stuff people will do in the name of God(s) and religions, Zed’s statement was more relevant than ever.
In the end, the movie was great. It was 100 minutes long. I never looked at my watch. The cast was brilliant.The writing was awesome. Jack Black and Michael Cera made a great comedic duo. I definitely recommend this film to anyone. Well, anyone who can take a joke and not get all bent out of shape about religious stuff. But even if you do, I think you will still laugh a lot when you see this movie.