Opening 27 Aug 2009
Zed (Jack Black) is a cave-man loser. He throws his spear and misses the wild boar by miles, inflicting injury on his colleague instead. His favorite lady Maya (June Raphael) rightly thinks he’s a joke and is not impressed. His only friend is Oh (Michael Cera), who leaves the settlement with him after Zed clumsily sets his hut on fire. “Oh,” says Oh – something he is forced to say often in the company of Zed. Those two plunge through the jungle into no-man’s land, which would be a brave thing to do, except that they had no choice but to leave quickly. Their travel takes them from Palaeolithic times into the next century where they meet Cain and Abel in a field. Cain accomplishes his task (killing Abel) and brings Zed and Oh home to meet the rest of the family. Soon they are off to their next adventure, which is, of course, another new century: smack into Sodom where the gods lick their chops over sacrificial virgins, orgies are not to be belittled, and legionaries clash steel swords. Here Zed manages to make a good impression by saving Maya (who has double roles) and getting rid of an evil high priest before setting off into the sunset towards Gomorrah.
What is the purpose of this film? It gives Jack Black the opportunity to change into various costumes: a skunk hide around his loins, a Roman-like helmet over his ears. It sets the stage for Year Two, Year Twenty, or Year One Hundred right up to the present time when Zed could advise Obama in the White House, helicopter into Iraq and model military camouflage suits. It plugs Biblical events, e.g., not only Cain and Abel, but also the forbidden apple, Abraham and Isaac, and the Tower of Babel, although orthodox believers will not be amused. It gives director Harold Ramis and co-producer Judd Apatow another stab at comedy after Animal House and Groundhog Day (Ramis), The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Funny People (Apatow), sadly without the same satisfactory results. As The New York Times said in an August article about the trend toward infantilization of American movies, “The summer is no time for grown-ups.” So, if you want something perhaps even too dumb for a six-year-old, this might be just the right ticket, although so far there are no accompanying toys. You’ll have to do without a Jack Black facsimile in your Happy Meal. (Becky Tan)