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Blunt-force comedy aplenty in 'Year One'

I might as well say it now: "Year One" should really be called "Judd Apatow's Life of Brian."

It isn't that much of a surprise to find the omnipresent comedy impresario involved with this. It's littered with Apatow regulars (beginning with its stars, Jack Black and Michael Cera), and its brand of humor is loose, probably ad-libbed and undeniably raunchy. But then, if you've already seen the Monty Python flick mentioned above, Mel Brooks' "History of the World: Part I" or the Dudley Moore movie "Wholly Moses!" or even read the "B.C." comic strip, you won't be surprised by anything that goes on here.

Black and Cera are Zed and Oh, two bumbling, hunting/gathering buddies who are banished from their tribe after Zed eats from the tree of forbidden fruit. This sends the pair on a journey where they run into all the biblical biggies. They meet Cain (David Cross), just as he's about to put a 187 on his brother, Abel (Paul Rudd, in an uncredited cameo). They stop the circumcision-obsessed Abraham (Hank Azaria) from sacrificing Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). And they land smack dab in Sodom, where Black's incompetent Neanderthal attempts to fulfill his prophecy as "the Chosen One."

You would think that, as an Apatow Company production, "Year One" would hash out the continous blasphemous gags like a plague of locusts. But, since this movie is more about silly spins on notable biblical legends and not ridiculing the story of J. Christ (I don't remember dude's name even being mentioned), they manage to skirt blasphemy and sacrilege. They even slip in a brief but sensible discussion between Black and Cera about the existence of God. So, it's very unlikely you'll be hearing Christian bigwigs calling for boycotts, forcing moviegoers to walk through judgmental picket lines outside multiplexes.

I find it difficult to imagine the staunchest churchgoing folk getting up in arms over "Year One." Directed by Granddaddy Raunch himself, Harold Ramis (lest we forget, he directed "Caddyshack," which I'm sure is the movie that inspired Apatow and his frat-boy minions -- their "Citizen Kane," if you will), the movie packs in so much low-brow humor (scripted by Ramis and "The Office" writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg), I don't think any moviegoer over the age of 35 would want anything to do with this flick.

Filmed in what mostly looks like the Appalachian mountains and the Las Vegas desert during a randy weekend, "Year" practically takes pride in its vulgar-yet-ultimately inoffensive goofiness. The movie's major joke is that most of the cast speak in present-day English, sounding like twentysomething, career college students figuring out what to do with their lives. Black and Cera have a nice chemistry, as they play off each other while working their obvious, respective shtick (Black does his usual, self-centered lummox routine, while Cera does his passive-aggressive, neurotic thang).

Most gags are predictably hit or miss, with some not even having a proper conclusion. (You'll be probably wondering for the rest of the movie how Cera's Oh escaped that serpent from the aforementioned forbidden-fruit tree.) I admit, some of the jokes are laugh-worthy. I certainly chuckled when a gold-covered Cera had to rub oil on the the extremely hairy chest of Oliver Platt's effeminate high priest. But a comedy shouldn't be this exhausting to watch; you spend 90 minutes and change getting slammed with one absurd, naughty joke after another, until you laugh. (You better laugh, dang it, or the movie won't end!)

Cute but needlessly aggressive, "Year One" is a comedy that's as subtle as a caveman's club conking you on the head.

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