Year One

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Year One Movie Poster Image
Old Testament meets old jokes in rough, unfunny comedy.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 35 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Much of the movie mocks prehistoric/Old Testament-era attitudes about everything from worship to gender relations ("give her a little tap on the head -- women really respond to that"). It's clearly satirical, but it can be difficult to separate the satire from the depiction of questionable acts. There's also lots of potty humor (including one character eating feces and another peeing on his own face), extensive discussion of sex, violence, and some strong racial and gay stereotyping. It's all meant in fun, but it's regrettably not that funny.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although the two main characters generally mean well, they're not really meant to be seen as role models -- Zed acts rashly and doesn't consider the consequences of his behavior, while Oh is a little too passive and often gets caught up in situations against his will. Women are frequently objectified, and characters are routinely portrayed in stereotypical fashion.


Scuffling, mostly for comedic purposes. Cain repeatedly beats his brother Abel with a stone, a man is speared in the shoulder, virgins are hurled into a sacrificial flame (a high priest doused with oil also wanders a little too close...), characters are stoned in public, a woman is punched in the face, characters are attacked by a cougar and a snake, a soothsayer reads bloody entrails, characters are whipped, and prisoners are hung upside down.


Extensive discussion of sex, sexual acts, and techniques; many jokes about "sodomy," as much of the plot takes place in the ancient city of Sodom. References to "laying with"; at one point it's implied that a character has "lain with" their mother. One character explains that she's "into girls," plus other references to homosexual acts (including between priests and boys). Also references to coerced sex, orgies, enuchs, and virginity (and its absence). Kissing, scantily clad women and men. Discussion of castration, circumcision, and more.


Pretty frequent strong language, including "suck," "a--hole," "ass," "f--ked the pooch," "s--t," "crap," "hell," "dick," "poop," "bastards," 'bulls--t," and more. Discussions of "sodomy."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink wine and liquor and smoke pipes. References to "killer hemp."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this farcical romp through the Book of Genesis -- which was originally rated R but got edited down to an edgy PG-13 -- is full of slapstick violence, crude sexual material, strong language (including "f--k"), and stereotypes. Since it stars Jack Black and Michael Cera, it's pretty clear that this isn't The Flintstones: There's lots of gross-out humor (bear feces are viewed up close, an obese hairy man gets an oil massage, a eunuch carries his removed testicles around in a small pouch, etc., etc.) and some fairly pointed mocking of the ideas and concepts of the Old Testament. Whether that adds up to ribald fun or offensive insults will depend on your perceptions.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 15 and 17-year-old Written byTN family July 9, 2009
The movie berates themes many feel are a matter of faith. The language is offensive. We left before getting too far into the comedy.
Parent of a 3, 5, 8, 9, and 14-year-old Written byabowsher June 25, 2009

Not for anyone...

This should be rated R in my opinion. I didn't do my homework before taking my 14 year old to this with my fater-in-law. It seemed like the whole movie w... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 22, 2018

I likes it

Really relates to the Bible, just a good comedy to watch
Kid, 12 years old February 11, 2010
i went to the movies

What's the story?

In prehistoric times, hunter Zed (Jack Black) and gatherer Oh (Michael Cera) are having a tough time of it. They aren't good at their jobs, everyone in their village hates them, and life is generally nasty, brutish, and short. Exiled after Zed eats from the forbidden tree of knowledge, the two take a tour through the Book of Genesis, meeting Cain and Abel, Abraham and Issac, and even Adam (director Harold Ramis, in a nice cameo). Arriving at the ancient city of Sodom, the two get caught up in palace intrigue and must find a way to escape with their lives -- while saving the villagers who hate them from slavery and death.

Is it any good?

Director Ramis (Groundhog Day) may be a comedy titan, but YEAR ONE feels both slapdash and slow -- as if the film felt like it could spread out the few jokes it had by dawdling between scenes. Black and Cera are both funny insofar as they do what they normally do -- Black is wild and wacky, Cera reserved and repressed -- but the movie doesn't ask them to do much more, and the supporting players (including David Cross, Hank Azaria, Paul Rudd, and Oliver Platt) consistently steal scenes out from under the stars.

Perhaps the original, R-rated cut of Year One was funnier, but that seems unlikely; some scenes have such weak transitions that you find yourself confused by how characters got from one to the other -- and wondering what went missing in between. The plodding pace doesn't help, either -- the movie feels padded and slow and bogs down unforgivably in too many places. Year One has gags and costumes galore, but it doesn't have the snap that would make it truly funny throughout, instead of scattering a few gags against a backdrop of tedium.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the comedic appeal of putting modern characters and ideas into the ancient world -- is the point to make us laugh at the shortcomings of the past or to encourage us to look at our own era's ideas and assumptions with clearer eyes?

  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose to go for a PG-13 rating instead of an R? Can you sense where the edges of the film were smoothed down for a PG-13? How different do you think it would have been if it had stayed R?

Movie details

  • In theaters: June 19, 2009
  • On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2009
  • Cast: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Olivia Wilde
  • Director: Harold Ramis
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 97 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence
  • Last updated: March 14, 2020

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