The Brag

Arts Reviews

In Arts, Brag 317 (June 22), Film Reviews, Theatre Reviews on June 23, 2009 at 4:54 am

Jack Black in Year One

Jack Black in Year One


Film
Year One
Released June 18

Jack Black plays the impetuous and unfunny Zed opposite Michael Cera’s more amusing Oh in the new prehistoric comedy from Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Analyze That). From One Million Years B.C. to Caveman to 10,000 B.C., our distant past has fuelled many an awful movie and Year One is no exception.

Essentially a road movie, we find Zed and Oh ostracised from their tribe for having devoured the forbidden fruit. Propelled by Zed’s belief that he is the chosen one, they lurch from one skit to another as they journey through undiscovered lands.

They cross paths with biblical alumni including the fratricidal Cain, and Abraham, who wishes to circumcise their penises. They ultimately arrive in a city, “Sodom”, which looks like a mishmash of costumes, sets and time periods pillaged from second rate Hollywood epics. There they must save two women from their tribe who are now slaves, and who they have previously attempted to seduce through such dubious methods as hitting them over the head with a large stick.

The plot of course is just an excuse for gags that cover the usual terrain of sex and bodily functions. Despite a few laugh-out-loud moments already spoiled in the trailer, most of the jokes fall flat and the audience at the screening were oddly silent.

The funniest material comes from Michael Cera who plays more or less the same character here as in Superbad and Juno. He has the bemused irony of someone always nervous and out of his depth which is kind of charming. But the laughs are too patchy, and even Oliver Platt, who hams it up as the flamboyant and overly hairy High Priest, can’t keep it afloat through the protracted finale.

2/5
Joshua Blackman

Elling.

Elling.


Sydney Theatre Company
Elling
Reviewed June 16, 2009

(Closes July 18)

Pamela Rabe’s production of Elling is a completely off-the-wall, perfectly cast piece of Norwegian absurdism. Elling (Darren Gilshenan) and Kjell Bjarne (Lachy Hulme) have shared a room in a mental institution for two years – over which time they have grown accustomed to each other’s oddities, and formed a tight unit.

Elling is an obsessively tidy and nattily dressed mama’s boy, who keeps a diary and sometimes sleeps in the closet. In his mind, he has chosen to stay in the asylum during a “hectic phase” of his life. Theology is his forte. Kjell Bjarne, on the other hand, is an oafish slob who never sleeps, prefers to not wear trousers, and is fixated on sex – without having had any.

Released into society and a state-owned apartment, Elling is confronted by three enemies: Dizziness, Anxiety and Frank Åsli. Frank (Glenn Hazeldine) is the social worker assigned to manage Elling and Kjell’s transition into normality – the success of which seems to hinge on their ability to use a telephone, do the shopping, and maintain a clean house.

The two struggle with “normality”, but make unexpected progress in other areas: Kjell embarks on a relationship with a sweet but equally hopeless (and pregnant) neighbour (Yael Stone), while Elling develops the literary ambitions of an “underground poet”.

The play is perfectly cast and designed, from a moon-faced Gilshenan, with his clipped accent, voluminous trench coat, and large pink-framed sunnies, to the shambolic, dishevelled Hulme, and pint-sized provocateur Yael Stone in a variety of lesser roles, from pornographic waitress to munted performance poet, and alcoholic love interest. The actors, like their director, have a perfect sense of comic timing, and an appreciation for the absurd.

As Elling and Kjell acclimatise to life in the outside world, the stage gradually transforms from sparse neatness into an explosion of comics, fake snow, clothing, plastic bags, paperbacks and packets of sauerkraut. At the end, having reached a high pitch of emotional abandonment and creative energy, Elling exclaims to Kjell “We’re normal!” Not at all – and all the more loveable for it.

4.5 stars
Dee Jefferson

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