And so I watched. And I laughed. And I laughed some more. And for the most part, I thought Year One was a very nice surprise. Certainly worth watching again to make sure the first time wasn't a fluke. Michael Cera continues to play up his boyish charms and Jack Black was pretty good. No one played against type, but they played "type" very well.
But here's the rub. Harold Ramis has always been known for smart comedy. Let me 'splain. There has been a shift in comedy and I won't even add the phrase "as of late" because it's been going on for quite some time. And that shift in comedy is that there's funny in idiocy. There's comfort and comedy in knowing that as an audience member, you're smarter than most everyone on the screen. Dumb and Dumber of course took this to new cinematic heights. And then there was Adam Sandler. And Ben Stiller. And of course Will Ferrell. And in little doses, that's funny. Billy Madison is funny. And Ron Burgundy is funny. But when that's all that' gets served up, it gets a little unfunny. One can't help but think back to Chevy Chase in Caddyshack, or Fletch. The humor was that he was always the smartest one in the room, even if he wasn't literally the smartest one in the room. Or Otter of Animal House. Or Bill Murray in Meatballs and Stripes and Groundhog Day. Certainly not the sharpest pencils in the pack, but the comedy never came at their expense.
And when you look at that list, Harold Ramis is responsible for most of it. He wrote Meatballs, Animal House and Caddyshack (which he also directed) and Stripes and Groundhog Day (also director). But now with Year One, he has written and directed a movie about cavemen, the lowest end of the evolutionary chain.
I think it's safe to say that with Ramis' resume, he is one of the best comedy writers of our time. And he has gotten to be that way by making us laugh because the main characters made everyone else look stupid. Not the other way around.
So what am I to make of all of this? Is this Ramis giving up and giving in? Is this his commentary on the state of comedy a la Idiocracy? Or maybe, just maybe, in the land of dumb comedies, this is the one-eyed dumb comedy that could be King.