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YEAR ONE – Theodore Shapiro

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A high concept comedy directed by Harold Ramis and starring Jack Black and Michael Cera, Year One follows the fortunes of two prehistoric hunter-gatherers named Zed and Oh, who are banished from their tribe after eating from a forbidden tree, and embark on all manner of adventures, meeting the historical Biblical figures Cain and Abel, becoming slaves in the ancient city of Sodom, and falling in love with two fellow slaves, Maya and Eema. Despite taking a number of peculiar liberties with classical bible stories, following a very odd timeline, Year One features a quirky supporting cast (Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and even Vinnie Jones), and was a surprising box office success during the summer of 2009.

The score for Year One is by Theodore Shapiro, who seems to be stuck in a rut of scoring big-budget comedies, despite his talent in other genres. As is always the best way with comedies, Shapiro scores it straight, writing music for a full symphony orchestra augmented by various ancient and Middle Eastern percussion and woodwind items to give the score a sense of time and place. The “Main Title” is actually quite impressionistic and unusual, sounding like a variation on Jerry Goldsmith’s sparse Planet of the Apes music, before exploding into a section for frantic tribal chanting.

The tribal music features prominently in several cues, including the authentic sounding “Jackal Dance”, but there are several lovely moments too; the delicate piccolo melody in “Hunters & Gatherers”, the sweeping first half of “Yak Attack”, or the unexpectedly sexy “Holy of Holies”, which becomes a quite erotic-sounding dance track by the end of its four minutes. In addition to this there is some unexpectedly large scale action as well, in cues such as “Hut Burner”, “Flight from the Village” (although this is spoiled by electronic finish), “Virgin Sacrifice”, and the unexpectedly epic “Zed to the Rescue”.

Of course, there is also a fair bit of mickey-mousing and light-hearted caper music to underscore Zed and Oh’s comic misadventures, and quite a bit of the music that is basically Shapiro’s approximation of modern Arabic dance music; cues like “Bazaar”, “The House of Adam”, “Abraham and Isaac”, and especially “The Gates of Sodom”, which I guess is supposed to be Shapiro’s take on Caananite sleaze. Some of this kind of writing sounds just a little too contemporary and out of place when compared to the rest of the album, but it’s all very fun and undemanding. I just wish Shapiro would be given the opportunity to use his not inconsiderable talent on something with more meat.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:30)
  • Hunters & Gatherers (0:37)
  • The Forbidden Fruit (2:11)
  • The Jackal Dance (1:34)
  • Hut Burner (0:20)
  • Flight from the Village (1:23)
  • Bazaar (1:04)
  • Yak Attack (2:32)
  • The House of Adam (1:05)
  • Looking for Abel (1:17)
  • Meet the Hebrews (0:29)
  • Wine and Spongecake (0:41)
  • Zed and Lilith (0:49)
  • Abraham and Isaac (1:12)
  • Sargon Attacks (1:57)
  • Reading the Entrails (1:09)
  • Virgin Sacrifice (2:27)
  • The Gates of Sodom (1:13)
  • Welcome to Sodom (1:08)
  • The Holy of Holies (4:36)
  • The Royal Orgy (2:31)
  • A Royal Reprieve (1:28)
  • Zed to the Rescue (6:07)
  • The Chosen Ones (4:00)

Running Time: 42 minutes 20 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-34090 (2009)

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