Year One

Year One (2009)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, David Cross
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Featurettes, Cinechat, MovieIQ

At first glimpse, Harold Ramis' latest comedy "Year One" could be easily mistaken for one of those brainless teenage gross-out comedies that have flooded video shelves for the past 10 years or so. Since Ramis is, however, a comedic talent of the highest order, clearly this was a film we had to check out and I am proud to say that I am glad I did.

"Year One" takes you back to an undefined tribal age where hunting and gathering were some of the most valuable skills. Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) aren't very good at either and as such they live an existence somewhat on the border of their little tribe – constantly ridiculed and pushed over. But Zed knows that he is destined for greater things and one day he leaves the tribe – or rather he is being expelled – to search for his destiny. Oh follows him and together they enter a world that has been previously unknown to them. On their journey they do not only find out that the world does not end in a precipice once the cross the mountains but instead offers different cultures, fraud with exciting tidbits, temptuous women and dangers.

Filled with wonderful nods to biblical themes, the film quickly manages to establish itself as a rather clever comedy that tries to create laughs through smarts rather than punches below the waistline – although their is a bit of crude sexual reference in the film as well. Of course we buy immediately into Jack Black's character as the fumbling dreamer who can't get anything right and still falls on his feet every time. Almost anarchic at times, the film reminded me a lot of the original National Lampoon films or an American incarnation of Monty Python. A film, in a nutshell, where nothing is taboo and no opportunity is left unused. I have no doubt that Ramis manages to offend hardcore Christians with his take on established biblical events by giving them his own wicked twist.

Presented in a pristine 1080p high definition transfer, "Year One" sparkles on Blu-Ray, just as you would have expected from a brand new film such as this. The transfer revels in detail and brings out every little bit in the production with impressive clarity. colors are strong and natural, rendering the image faithfully at all times. The solid black levels help give the image visual depth and help creating contrast that results in a dramatic visual impression. Edges are sharp and exceedingly well defined throughout the presentation making this a beautiful presentation that is sure to impress you.

The audio presentation on the release comes as a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that accurately reproduces the film's original master track without compression. As a result the sound field is highly directional and makes aggressive use of the split surround channels. The wide frequency response helps to create a bustling atmosphere as ambient effects, dialogue, music and sound effects are perfectly integrated to make full use of the sonic spectrum.

Loaded with bonus materials, the release contains both the theatrical and an unrated version of the film along with a commentary track featuring Harold Ramis, Jack Black and Michael Cera. Deleted scenes and an alternate ending are also included as well as various making-of and production featurettes. This Blu-Ray version also includes a few BD Live features that allow you to recut the movie yourself and share your version with friends, A movieIQ track is also included as well as Sony's cinechat feature.

I was pleasantly surprised by "Year One" and found that the film was much better than I had expected. Clearly, it is not for everyone, but I found that it was not nearly making use of platitudes and instead replaced cheap shots with solid comedy. The Blu-Ray version is fantastic and puts a marvelous presentation of the film at your hands, completed with a good number of solid high definition bonus materials.