Great books tell stories. Here’s our pick of vivid and insightful new releases for better understanding America, world events, history, science, and theology
Is it necessarily blasphemous to spoof Genesis? That probably depends on the motives and hearts of those doing the spoofing. However, even if writer/director Harold Ramis intended to offend with Year One, a comedy about two feebleminded cavemen who traverse the ancient world meeting up with well-known biblical characters, the film is so poorly done it's hard to get worked up about it. Rated PG-13 (though R would have been more appropriate) for language and sexual content, Year One is less a sendup of Old Testament stories than a loosely linked series of crude sex jokes broken up by occasional potty humor.
After being kicked out of their village for eating from the tree of good and evil (obviously the plot doesn't follow any kind of plausible timeline), Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) decide to find out what lies across the mountains. The first people they meet are sibling rivals Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd). This encounter, which is the only one to stay relatively faithful to Scripture's depiction of events, provides one of the film's few funny moments. From there everything goes downhill both figuratively and literally as the pair find themselves enslaved in Sodom where they have to rescue their love interests from being sacrificed to pagan gods.
Interestingly, if Ramis, a self-described liberal who told the Los Angeles Times he hopes his movie highlights the dangers of "religious extremism," has any objections to biblical proscriptions against sodomy, the film doesn't show it. The few homosexuals Zed and Oh come across in Sodom are creepy and gross. Oliver Platt in particular gives an over-the-top performance as a gay high priest that will have viewers cringing.
On the other hand, Ramis' depiction of Abraham as a wild-eyed fanatic and Isaac as a rebellious party boy are pretty cringe-worthy as well. But considering Year One is likely to flop, there's little point in giving it the benefit of controversy by protesting too much.