REVIEW: Year 1

June 20, 2009 at 3:01 am Leave a comment

Title: Year 1
Media Type: Movie
Primary subject: Ancient Israel

Year 1
Hollywood has quite a legacy of putting history on film. From the early epics like Ben Hur, to modern action movies like Gladiator Hollywood has presented history in a very powerful, if somewhat fictionalized way. These epic films have shaped entire viewpoints of history and inspired people to study subjects they might not have otherwise touched.
Year 1 is not one of those films.
Year 1 is a comedy based very loosely on the events of The Old Testament. It is often crude and boring for unnecessarily long segments but it certainly has laughs.
The question is does it bring anything to the classroom?

Motivational Potential
Judging by the crowd in the showing I just attended many students will have seen this movie. The audience was easily 50% under 14 (the movie is rated PG-13) so any reference you make to it likely will be understood by many students. Even if they don’t see it there has been a fairly massive advertising campaign that will at least make students aware of the movie.
The rating is low due to the fact that ultimately many of the jokes will not be understood by kids. They will certainly get the toilet humor which would have to be edited out anyway but they will not get most of the historical gags which you might actually use.
For example, there is a scene early on where two men are discussing traveling beyond their village. When one argues that will simply lead to them falling off the edge of the Earth the other protests saying there must be more to the world. This leads the first to give a doubtful look to which the latter replies “Would you stop looking at me like I’m some kind of idiot?” The first mumbles in response “well, it is generally accepted knowledge…” In context that short exchange could be motivating but it would probably require more explaining than the length of the clip itself.

Educational Potential
In a course on ancient history there is definitely some content here that could be of use. Additionally, the above mentioned discussion on the size of the world could find a place in many units of history. There are scenes based on Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac and Sodom and Gomorrah. There are some potentially useful scenes late in the movie showing the reliance many had on “the gods” for their provisions historically.
Ultimately though the “history” here takes a very far back seat to the story and the jokes. Even the scenery is weak at best in portraying the historical period.

I’m sadly disappointed. When I first saw the commercial for this movie back during the Super Bowl I had high hopes. It seemed to take place during the Roman Empire (which the very misleading title “Year 1” also implies) and looked to provide a different perspective on it. It didn’t. The movie takes place entirely in ancient Israel and doesn’t do much with it anyway. There might be something here if you really, really dig but given the weak motivational potential it really isn’t worth it.


Entry filed under: Movies.

RESOURCE: The Simpsons Archive ( REVIEW – IBM “Smarter Math” Commercial

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