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Overall Rating
3.65

Awesome: 25.81%
Worth A Look: 22.58%
Average41.94%
Pretty Bad: 9.68%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings


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Ten, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"And The Lord Said, "Let Jessica Alba Be Funny" And She Was!"
3 stars

“The Ten” is a film that would seem to have a lot going for it. The conceit behind it, a series of ten comedic sketches that use the Ten Commandments as a jumping-off point (imagine a cross between Krzysztof Kieslowski’s epic “The Decalogue” and “Kentucky Fried Movie”), sounds enormously promising, it was made by the same people responsible for the hilarious sketch comedy shows “The State” and “Stella” and the various roles have been filled by a large number of usually reliable performers. And yet, while there are some great individual moments scattered throughout, the film as a whole is too scattershot to really be satisfying–every moment of genuine inspiration is offset by a couple of draggy ones–and it never really quite works up the energy to be as wild and outrageous as it clearly wants to be.

Our host for “The Ten” is Jeff (Paul Rudd), a man who doesn’t allow a personal crisis–should he stay with sexy wife Gretchen (Famke Janssen) or leave her for sexier, younger girlfriend Liz (Jessica Alba)?–to get in the way of his life’s work of introducing modern-day interpretations of the Ten Commandments from the base of a pair of enormous stone tablets. For starters, we learn about the danger of worshiping false gods by witnessing the rise and fall of Stephen (Adam Brody), a young man who becomes an instant celebrity after a parachuting accident leaves him alive but embedded in the ground. Not taking the Lord’s name in vain leads to the story of a virginal librarian (Gretchen Mol) whose libido soars into overdrive during a Mexican vacation when she meets a hunky local carpenter (Justin Theroux), only to discover that he is. . .well, I don’t want to spoil it but you can probably figure it out for yourselves. “Thou Shalt Not Kill” tells the tale of the fate that befalls a wacky surgeon (co-writer Ken Marino) when one of his self-proclaimed “goofs” leads to the death of a patient. The importance of honoring one’s mother and father is illustrated by a story in which a white widow (Kerri Kenney-Silver) explains to her two black sons that their real father was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger and goes so far as to hire a Schwarzenegger impersonator (Oliver Platt) to help ease the transition. Coveting thy neighbor’s goods is represented by an ordinary family man (Liev Schreiber) whose competitive nature is launched into overdrive when he sees that his next-door neighbor has purchased a CAT-scan machine.

The story of coveting thy neighbor’s wife returns us to the “goof” surgeon–now in prison and the “wife” of his cellmate, he catches the eye of a new inmate (Rob Corddry) who wants him as well. “Thou Shalt Not Steal” stars Winona Ryder–yes, Winona Ryder–as a newlywed who falls instantly in love with someone else on her wedding night and goes to extreme lengths to be with him–the joke is that the focus of her obsession is a ventriloquist’s dummy. The dangers of bearing false witness are literally illustrated for us via a cartoon in which a junkie tells the incredibly filthy story of the creature known as the Lying Rhino and how his constant fibbing led to the destruction of his hometown. Host Jeff takes center stage to represent the dangers of adultery–he has remarried (no fair telling to who) but finds himself tempted to stray once again when he runs into an ex on the street. Finally, our journey ends with the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy by showing us a man (A.D. Miles) who cheerfully skips going to church with his family so that he can sit around stark naked with his friends (including Bobby Cannavale) and listen to Roberta Flack CD’s.

As with most anthology films, whether you like or dislike “The Ten” will depend to a great degree on how many of the individual sketches you find yourself responding to as it progresses. For me, I liked the opening story involving the guy stuck in the ground, especially the inclusion of Ron Silver as an agent who specializes in clients who are trapped in things, and felt that the one with the librarian in Mexico had enough promise in its premise to support an entire feature film. I also really like the bit involving the neighbors and their escalating CAT-scan battle–Schreiber’s dead-pan approach to the material is hilarious and the screenplay manages to stretch the one-joke premise further than anyone could have anticipated. The highlight of the film, however, is the wraparound material involving the host–Paul Rudd once again shows off his startling comedic chops (as he did in his scene-stealing bits in “Anchorman” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and Jessica Alba, of all people, scores some of the biggest laughs with her brief appearance as his girlfriend. (If there is a place where I can get a ringtone of the way she says the line “Will you buy me a pony?,” I would appreciate it if you could point it out to me as soon as possible.)

If the film could have maintained the quality of these bits, “The Ten” would have made for a great comedy but too many of the remaining bits wind up falling flat. Some, like the one involving Winona Ryder and the ventriloquist’s dummy, start on a promising note but gradually run out of steam. (Considering the way that Ryder throws herself into the material–going so far as to engage in one of the oddest sex scenes ever enacted by a name actress–you’ll find yourself wishing that co-writers Marino and David Wain would have repaid her by giving the segment more of a payoff than the one seen here.) Others wind up stumbling right from the start and never improve–the only thing more excruciating than the vignette involving the doctor trying to justify his “goofs” is when that character returns later on for the sketch about the lighter side of prison rape. Maybe part of my disappointment with these sequences comes from the fact that I am a fan of “Stella” and “The State,” not to mention Wain’s previous film, the hilarious summer camp spoof “Wet Hot American Summer.” Those efforts projected a bizarre comedic sensibility that approached familiar material in such a disarmingly off-kilter manner that you found yourself laughing partly because of the jokes and partly out of amazement that people could come up with ideas that strange. Here, only the CAT-scan and librarian segments come close to approaching that attitude–the rest could have appeared on a middling episode of “Saturday Night Live” and hardly anyone would have even batted an eyelash.

Judging a film like “The Ten” is always difficult–do I recommend that you see it for the really funny parts despite all the dud material or do I recommend staying away even though it will mean missing some really funny stuff? Actually, this is the kind of film that seems tailor-made to be watched at home on DVD–you can replay and savor all the high points while fast-forwarding through the duds. Sure, some purists might blanch at such a suggestion but I guarantee that even the most sympathetic fan of “The State” is going to come away from “The Ten” giving silent thanks that Moses dropped that third tablet with the five additional commandments.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15641&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/03/07 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.

User Comments

1/17/09 Anonymous. a somewhat-amusing raunchfest. 3 stars
1/10/09 Lee caiphn is spot on, apparently no one funny was around to say NO! bad writer! Bad director! 2 stars
8/01/08 lori this was crude, disgusting, disturbing, and hilarious :] 4 stars
3/25/08 caiphn Unfunny...! Very unfunny, ... and when something does work, they take it too long. 2 stars
8/08/07 Steven Pointless and humorless, don't waste the money! 2 stars
8/05/07 dan moreo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ha oh hee hee hee 5 stars
1/26/07 Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe Hilariously funny comedy def. worth a look 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Aug-2007 (R)
  DVD: 15-Jan-2008

UK
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