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Movie Review

Year One a.k.a. “The Year One,” “Ano Um,” “Etos ena,” “Year one—Kaiken alku”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence.

Reviewed by: Rev. Bryan Griem

Extremely Offensive
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Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Adventure, Comedy
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 19, 2009 (wide—2,900 theaters)
DVD: October 6, 2009
Copyright, Columbia Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures

Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel


Sodom and Sodomites

Sin and the Bible

God’s Story Online home
Do you understand God’s Story? Take a multimedia journey through the Bible, from Creation to eternity. Hear and read an exciting summary of the Bible’s most important records, in chronological order.

Paradise and Eden

Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer

CAVEMEN—Do they fit with the Bible? Answer

Hunting in the Bible

Kings and queens


Bow and arrow


Bible Archaeology
Learn about archaeology and the Bible
Top choice for accurate, in-depth information on Creation/Evolution. The SuperLibrary is provided by a top team of experts from various respected creationist organizations who answer your questions on a wide variety of topics. Multilingual.

Fornication in the Bible

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

What do Hollywood celebrities believe about spiritual issues? Find out

Why is there a disconnect between Hollywood and the rest of America? Answer

What is being done to change the values of Hollywood? Answer

Featuring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Olivia Wilde, Paul Rudd (Abel), Oliver Platt, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, June Diane Raphael, Xander Berkeley, Gia Carides, Horatio Sanz, David Pasquesi, Matthew J. Willig, Harold Ramis, Rhoda Griffis, Gabriel Sunday, Eden Riegel, Kyle Gass, Bill Hader, Marshall Manesh, Rion Hunter, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg, Eric Gipson, Lacie Manshack, Matt Besser, Drue Franklin, Weston Hollenshead, Paul Scheer, Joaquin Townsend, Bryan Massey, Keet Davis, Tim Hilton, Ashley Nicole Caldwell, Mark Cotone, Jack Walker, Jamal Sims, Paul Benshoof, Kelly Connolly, Leslie Geldbach, Katherine Miller, Michael Morris, Sarah Christine Smith, Kayla Clary
Director: Harold Ramis
“Analyze This,” “Analyze That,” “Ghost Busters,” “Groundhog Day,” “The Ice Harvest,” “Bedazzled,” “Multiplicity”
Producer: Apatow Productions, Ocean Pictures, Judd Apatow, Andrew Epstein, Harold Ramis, Rodney Rothman, Clayton Townsend, Laurel A. Ward, Nicholas Weinstock
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

“Meet your ancestors.”

And they say biblical literacy is dead! Perhaps this is the final nail in its coffin. Will “Year One” be understood as an anachronistic bawdy romp through the Old Testament, or will viewers only understand it as a mere slapstick hodgepodge of actor Jack Black doing what he always does, but in some kind of pretend historic past? Christians will see the Bible debased and made light of, while secular folks will likely not get it, and they don’t need to since nothing about the movie is true to form. If they understand the biblical allusions, there will no doubt be some who will make the leap to judgment on the Bible, believing its contents to be quite nearly as archaic, silly, and unenlightened as the movie depicts.

The story begins with a tribe of cavemen, living a life as hunter-gatherers before the time of Adam and Eve. Recognizing this is a comedy, let me just point out that this detail would be a problem, biblically speaking, since Adam and Eve were the first human beings, and there wouldn’t have been people running around hunting and gathering before them.

Anyway, hunter Zed (Black) proves at once to be one of his community’s loser members. While there are a few Zeds in the Bible (short for Zedekiah), there are places in the world today that use “zed” to mean “zero,” and at an early stage Black introduces himself as the son of “Zero.” So, he is essentially less than nothing, the tribe agrees, and he is thrown out for eating the forbidden fruit. Zed takes with him an effeminate gatherer named “Oh” (Michael Cera), and the two unlikely buddies go off to explore the civilized world.

Immediately, the two are introduced to higher society as they encounter wheel-users, Cain and Abel, the first children of Adam and Eve (who really ate the biblical forbidden fruit in the Bible). They witness the first murder in history, although it just comes across as something to laugh at for the audience, and something to worry about for the characters as they are forced to go with fratricidal Cain (David Cross) when he flees his home. In the Biblical account, God marks Cain for his sin, and though the circumstances are convoluted in the movie, this event is depicted with interesting special effect.

Disturbing is the introduction of Cain’s sister, Lilith (named for a legendary alternate wife to Adam) who is here presented as an avowed homosexual. It isn’t long before Zed and Oh happen upon Abraham at the moment of his sacrifice of Isaac, and they are the ones who stay his hand, not the Angel of the Lord, à la Genesis. Of course, Abraham mistakes Zed for an angel, and the Bible is made to report a perception rather than an inspired fact.

This scene ushers the audience into yet another culture, a Hebrew one, in which circumcision plays a big part and which is made a constant source of humor throughout the movie. Because of this, the word “penis” must have earned the Guinness record for number of times it can be said in a ninety minute period.

While the beginning of mankind came thousands of years before the time of Abraham, the next and concluding section of the movie are contemporaneous, as the goofy two head from the home of Abraham to the city of Sodom (of Sodom and Gomorrah infamy). While they had parted company with Cain earlier, they find him again in the city, and there Cain says a few memorable lines like “the great thing about Sodom is the sodomy,” and something on the order of “what happens in Sodom (read, Vegas) stays in Sodom.” The depiction of Sodom as pagan, licentious, homosexual and perverse is probably close to the truth, though the real place was so much more evil that God completely wiped it off the map.

Profanity in the film covers the gamut, and everything from the F-bomb, all the way down, gets uttered. Although it is not as constant as in some other films, what doesn’t get said gets depicted—from women looking up men’s loincloths, to men looking down women’s blouses. Food is sexualized, everyone seems to be motivated with hopes of “laying” with someone, and all manner of sexual practice is referenced, such as masturbation, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, etc. One especially blasphemous sexual exchange about the “holy of holies” almost created an expectation of lightning to come down and consume the entire cast and crew as I watched, but, of course, the movie is made, and there it is.

While nudity wasn’t a factor in the film, there were scantily-clad orgy participants, breasts were poked, statuary genitalia were emphasized, and off-screen fornication took place.

Comedic violence in the movie was more final than you would normally expect, in that Cain does end the life of his brother, chopped heads roll in a marauding sequence, and young women die as they are thrown into a sacrificial fire. These are not especially amusing, although the Cain sequence is reminiscent of Monty Python humor where the dead man continues to get up until he is finally and completely pounded to death. Along with these are multiple fight scenes, people squished, speared, bonked, punched, thrown, and whatever else you can imagine.

There is smoking and drinking in the film. Intoxicants are brought in on several occasions; from young Isaac mentioning how he goes to Sodom to get high and drunk, to things consumed by the sacrificial virgins that take visible effect immediately.

The gross factor in the movie is one of its biggest humor contributions, so if vomit, flatulence, urination, coprophagia, homosexuality and defecation make you laugh, here’s a movie for you. There are moments when you can’t help but laugh, but its more out of the sheer over-the-top disgusting nature of it than to any truly laughable humor.

Overall, I would describe this movie as a very low-brow, adult potty-humor sort of trash. Yes, it has its moments, but like the payoff at the end of a dirty joke, it just isn’t worth it, not for God’s holy people anyway. The rating may PG-13, but I wouldn’t suggest parents allow their thirteen year olds to see it. This is not “School of Rock” or “Nacho Libre” (Black’s tamer claims to fame).

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I was amazed at how biblically accurate this was. WOW! Book of Genesis… Obviously it was stuck in a time warp—all these characters being in one era at the same time. A lot of the good stuff got left out—whoever edited this should be shot, as the story jumped from one scene to another without bothering to fill out each scene first. What DID remain was the moral at the end: “We’re ALL the chosen one!” (I guess the reviewers all walked out before Mr. Ramos got to the punch line.)

Zed felt that he could help people because he thought that he was the chosen one, but he realized that we ALL control our own destinies. The script had a line where Zed wondered if there was a higher power, whose name he did not know, and he felt sure that man was here for a reason—that we all have a purpose. (I did not see this line in final edition… Jesus also told us to be our own chosen ones…

In the end, Zed realized that the respect of those who knew him was more important than the momentary glory he was receiving from the masses, who wanted to lean on him for their strength instead of their own power. He went out to explore new things, while his brother-in-law, Oh, went home to lead his people with his new-found strength. As for the Sodom/Gomorrah, circumcisions, drug use, slavery—look around you and you’ll find that the movie kinda played it DOWN from what real-life has to offer.

Yeah, it was tacky and offensive (…and badly edited…) but I always find Harold Ramos to be a good story-teller, with a large moral, and realistic heroes, who do the right things, in the end, and save the day! [A lot of the Bible characters have problems, but God still uses them to His glory. ] We’re ALL the chosen ones!!! :-)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—~Nancy, age 51 (USA)
Positive—I am a fan of Jet Black although I realize sometimes he can be pretty offensive. I’ll keep this review short. This movie took a lot from the bible. Was it accurate? Eh for the most part. Was it funny? I thought it was. A lot of fellow Christians I know didn’t like it. But, really, there’s far worse comedies—FAR WORSE. I actually expected it to be really raunchy. After seeing “The Hangover,” this movie isn’t that bad. If people are looking for the perfect movie those are rare. Obviously this movie isn’t for a good amount of people, but it’s not the worst thing you could see either by any means.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Matt, age 28 (USA)
Positive—There were obvious scenes that could have been excluded but overall this is a really funny movie. We has several laugh-out-loud moments, but our family does enjoy crude humor. I do like the opportunity to laugh at myself but there were a couple of scenes that were in the “neighborhood” of offensive to the Christian faith. I would reconsider if I were deciding to see this moving with someone who was spiritually immature. I might have left the movie a little dumber having seen it, I am still glad I did. :)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Rick, age 40 (USA)


Negative—After no small deliberation, I have decided this movie is on par with “Meet the Spartans.” I think I saw Wal-Mart giving out free copies of the latter today.

I knew full well going into the theater there were to be copious amounts of inappropriate dialogue. So much so that Austin Powers would scream bloody penitence. Sadly, the simple fact remains: comedies—by and large in this day and age—resort to the same ol' gimmicky sexual jokes, puns, and gestures as the same 100 films before them. “Year One” was originally sentenced with an “R.” Harold Ramis went before the MPAA, reasoned with them, asked for a PG-13, and was summarily denied. Cuts had to be MADE to secure a PG-13. Any time that happens, the movie is “R” (or what have you to begin with) for all I care. “Year One” is no exception.

Worse yet, it contains no seminal or innovative idea; it’s just a shoddy conglomeration of borrowed, redundant elements. The plot is weakly strung together by cheap jabs at anatomy and coarse speech—to include talk of incest, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.—with a side of all cameos under the sun. The ending is forced and a humongous narrative copout if ever I’ve seen one. I saw it coming from the get-go. A comedy as reprehensible as this one has only one means of wrapping things up (or attempting to), and that’s to have the lead rattle off a load of flimsy and entirely generic Hallmark rhetoric in his most vulnerable hour.

Invariably, I found myself without so much as a smile on my face watching movie. That’s an achievement in and of itself. It’s quite easy to guarantee I’ll be the loudest moviegoer at the most random intervals. I’m the guy who laughed (out loud as they say) when King Kong plummeted headlong 96 stories to his death. I’m the guy who won’t shut up over a stale joke from 30 min. ago. “Year One” didn’t so much as elicit a genuine laugh ‘til the bitter end when the blooper reel hit center stage. If you conjure the will to sit through this mind numbingly puerile piece, then at least reward yourself with the bloopers. Bill Hader (prominently known as the other cop from 'Superbad'), plays a heavily darkened shaman, and it is he who proves his prowess with a spot-on impersonation of Daniel Day Lewis from 'There Will Be Blood'. That is the sole, solitary, singular particulate haha moment to be had in Year One’s loathsome 100 min.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Jacob Keenum, age 23 (USA)
Negative—I didn’t realize what this movie was about when I agreed to see it. I have to say I was appalled. I had to leave the theater once I realized that the entire movie mocked God’s Holy Word. I felt convicted and I couldn’t sit through it. I do not suggest that anybody with a love for God go see this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Shannon, age 24 (USA)
Negative—This movie is openly gnostic/Satanic in theology. The ending message is “you don’t need a chosen one—we are all ‘chosen ones’.” This movie consistently mocks and demeans the God of the Bible. This is all hidden in crude humor and some truly funny parts, but the message and intent of the film is nothing to be laughed at. It is evangelistic in its message that “God is trying to keep you from knowledge” and other lies of the enemy. I’m sure someone will post an article in the future detailing the specific beliefs shown here in more detail.

Personally, my jaw drops to the floor to think how little “fear of the Lord” or even respect is shown in our culture for a movie like this to air. The only reason to watch this is to be moved to sorrow and intercession those who made this movie and will be corrupted by it. The God of the Bible, the Lord God, is merciful, full of compassion. Read your Bible and learn His true nature. For those who mock Him in ignorance and deception, may the true God open your eyes to see Him for who he truly is.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—April, age 36 (USA)
Negative—I rented this DVD on a whim from Blockbuster since I was looking for something funny to watch. This movie tried to deliver laughs, but it received few from me. The deliberate Biblical illiteracy was funny at first but it got old real fast. I’m thankful that I only rented this DVD for $5 instead of paying $10 to see it in a theater. Frankly, folks are better off watching Mel Brooks' “History of the World: Part I” than this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Shannon H., age 28 (USA)
Negative—I found this movie to be EXTREMLY OFFENSIVE. What’s happened to this world?? I’m sorry for the actors and actress’s that have elected by their own free will to do this film. Biblical doctrine is not to be made a mockery of. I am ashamed that I watched 5 minutes of this movie. I think ignorance is at an all time high, and god’s wrath will be released for ALL to see. We are closer then ever to the end times. May God have mercy…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Andrea, age 32 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—This movie disgusts me. I am ashamed that I didn’t walk out of the theater because the whole goal of this film was to make Christianity, or anyone who believes in God, a laughing-stock. One of Adam’s daughters was a proud lesbian. Abraham was portrayed as a raving lunatic for his devotion to God throughout the film. The warning of prostitution in Sodom was made an extra incentive for the two main characters to travel to the evil city. All of these aspects of the movie repulsed me—and they were just the tip of the iceberg. I would not advise this movie for anyone, that is unless you like seeing Christianity or religion in general mocked.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Emily, age 15 (USA)
Neutral—OK first off this was a funny movie. at some points of the movie me and my friend were in pain we were laughing so hard! but… There were many parts of the movie were I felt extremely uncomfortable because of all the jokes that put down God and the bible. I felt God would not have wanted me to watch this film. Funny movie… but for a price.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Matt, age 14 (Canada)
Positive—Wow, what a movie is all I can say. The movie was a enjoyable comedy from start to finish, a lot of Christians are skeptic about this movie and that kind of disappoints me. I think that’s because this movie really comes close to crossing the line with insulting the bible, but I really think its how you perceive this movie. But from my thinking, I loved the movie, I never stopped laughing throughout the whole thing, and I think most of us can relate to this movie.

I was really surprised how accurate this movie was when it came to remaking the scenes of the Bible. Of course, they weren’t reenactments. They were more so spoofs with a comical twist. (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!) I really like how they did the scene with Cain and Abel. It kinda reminded me of how me and my brother fight, and kinda shows how they would act if the even of killing Abel happened in the 21st century. It was downright hilarious Most of the movie was spoofing the bible which kinda upset me. The movie is about the early history of the world, but I wished they spoofed more events other than the bible, such as the early roman empire, etc., etc. Regardless they really were accurate when it came to situations in the Bible, like Abraham and Isaac, Cain and Abel, Sodom and Gomorrah.

I’m surprised that there weren’t any Sex Scenes when the setting turned to Sodom and Gomorrah. This movie stays PG—13 through most of the movie however it was kinda crossing the line when a guy was throwing his testicles at the main character (don’t worry, you can barely notice it and it just looks like a pink clay ball) The only thing I really did not approve of this movie was the fact that Sodom was never destroyed, and how it questions morals, but the movie does choose to stay neutral. The movie does have a situation were the main characters argue if God exists or not, but it ends in a neutral note. Believe what you want to believe in. I’m really proud Hollywood didn’t enforce atheism nor creationism.

I end with a good note. This movie however is not for any age under 12, This movie can be found funny by both adults and teenagers. Do not see this movie if you are very intolerant of bible spoofs. But I have a feeling God maybe have chuckled at some parts of this movie, and frowned upon some parts, but mostly approves.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Nate, age 17 (USA)
Neutral—…I thought this was a verrrrrrrrrrry funny movie. I’m giving it a neutral because of how uncomfortable I felt when every other joke was putting down God. At one point the jokes got so offensive that I almost walked out but, in the end, I stayed for it all. It was funny but you have to pay the price, of one day being judged by God (he will not like this movie one bit) for seeing this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Matt, age 15 (Canada)
Negative—I laugh at most movies. This one was an exception. Not only was the film quality complete TRASH!! it also contained a very large amount sexual reference. But what troubled me most was that it went beyond sacrilegious. For those of you who say this is even close to having any sense of Biblical correctness, please go read the book of Genesis to see where you got that whimsical idea. Topping it all off, unlike Jack Black’s other films, this one can be summed up in to words, EPIC FAIL. I strongly advise against seeing this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Alex, age 13 (USA)
Movie Critics
…“Year One” is a dreary experience… …Black was fresh and funny once… but here he forgets to act and simply announces his lines. Cera plays shy and uncertain, but then he always does, and responds to Black as if Jack were “Juno” and a source of intimidating wit. …
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…Those who do not learn from the history of comedy are condemned to repeat it, though not always as funnily. …
—Chris Knight, National Post
…There is plenty of lowbrow, knuckle-dragging humor; coupled with all the gay jokes, poop jokes, Jewish jokes and you’re-stupider-than-I-am jokes, the arrested-development crowd will no doubt be thoroughly entertained. … Jack Black and Michael Cera goof with the ancients. Unfortunately, the jokes have been around just as long. …
—Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
…charmless… Black is way past his expiration date. The actor’s unvarying comic shtick—blubbery egotism and over-enunciated dude catchphrases—has never seemed feebler. …
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe
…“Year One” falls somewhere on the lower end of the scale. Its take on the first book of the Bible might call to mind the description of the church at Laodicea in the last book of the Bible (Rev. 3:16): It’s neither hot nor cold. If you take it in, you might want to spit it out. …
—Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk
Comments from non-viewers
Personally haven’t watched the movie, but just watching the trailers, you can tell this movie is blasphemous, and the whole cast needs to find the true meaning of God’s holy word. The reviews I have seen, specially the sexual content on the holy of holies, made my jaw drop. If the people of this nation is trying to push God out of our schools, and our pledge of allegiance, because it may “offend someone” then this movie should not have made it to the theater much less the shelf, because it HIGHLY offends me. This is the kind of attitude that the Christians should stand AGAINST. So when Christians go to see this movie, they are supporting it, and saying this behavior and this kind of movie is acceptable. So no, I will never watch this, and neither should anyone else. Matthew 12:32—“And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (KJV). God have mercy on their souls
—Matthew, age 22 (USA)
For all the people who said this film was Biblically accurate, or that God would find it funny, um… ever actually read, not to mention understand the Bible?? The only laughs the film garnered were in the first few minutes, then it became not only boring, but insulting to watch. My husband and I are not prudes, and expected a few cuss words and a bit of inappropriate humor, but walked out well into the first hour, disgusted. It became obvious that the point of the movie was to suggest that anyone who believes in God is an idiot as well as criminally ignorant. It should have offended anyone, of any faith, but it seemed truly intended to offend Christians, and it did.
—Karen, age 44 (USA)