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Oddball comedy a flatline dud

MAKING a solid summer comedy starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross and Hank Azaria should be so easy, a caveman could do it.

Somehow, despite the presence of those reliable actors and the highly advanced skills of comic veterans Harold Ramis and Judd Apatow behind the scenes, "Year One" manages to be a dud.

A few amusing moments and gags pop up here and there, but more often the script feels flat, with a needlessly heavy reliance on scatological jokes.

Director Ramis co-wrote it with "The Office" writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg; he and Apatow are among the producers.

Black's character literally eats faeces at one point, while Cera's urinates all over himself - while hanging upside down; it could be a metaphor for what everyone is stuck doing in this movie.

Black and Cera star as hunter Zed and gatherer Oh, mismatched Neanderthals who are banished from their village after Zed eats some forbidden fruit.

Basically, this premise allows Black to be Black (manic, unhinged but always overconfident) and Cera to be Cera (awkward, sarcastic but always sweet).

Both are so deeply entrenched in their respective personae, there's not much heavy lifting required of either of them here, but they bounce off each other in easy odd-couple fashion.

Zed and Oh set off on a road trip that goes from their primitive land and across the desert to a series of biblical settings, including encounters with Cain and Abel (Cross and an uncredited Paul Rudd) and Abraham and Isaac (Azaria and Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

The plot meanders, too, without much narrative momentum - the explanation of the origin of circumcision is good for a laugh, though.

They end up eventually in Sodom, where Zed becomes smitten with the beautiful but scheming Princess Ianna (Olivia Wilde).

Because his nibbles of forbidden fruit convince him that he's the chosen one, Zed feels completely worthy of such royalty. He doesn't exactly evolve here.

Neither does the consistently put-upon Oh, who becomes the unwitting servant boy of Sodom's kinky High Priest (Oliver Platt), who is fond of having hot oil rubbed into his furry chest.

But his weirdness feels like one of many scattered ideas that are picked up and quickly dropped.

As Zed and Oh's potential love interests, June Raphael and Juno Temple don't get much to do besides look cute in their sexy pelts.

Ramis, who initiated the story, seems to be aiming for his own version of the Mel Brooks classic "History of the World: Part 1."

Unfortunately, there's nothing terribly memorable about these adventures.


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