Broken commandment: Thou shall be funny

The Ten

on August 03, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
The sketch comedy background of writer/director David Wain and co-scribe Ken Marino (TV's The State ) surely served as inspiration for this riff on the Ten Commandments. Presented in 10 parts—one for each of God's laws, natch— The Ten takes a comedic look at the modern application of Western civilization's guiding principles.

Although the entire production was overseen by the same filmmaking team, the results are hugely uneven. Scenarios that were funny on paper—on her honeymoon, newlywed Kelly (Winona Ryder) falls in love and runs away with a ventriloquist dummy—are overplayed. Other material succeeds on the strength of casting alone: Liev Schreiber plays keeping-up-with-the-Joneses by ordering delivery after delivery of CAT scan machines, and Rob Corddry appears in the bit about coveting your neighbor's wife—set in a prison yard.

Too often, though, The Ten is simply not funny enough, stretched thin by ideas played out too long. The introductions to each story, set in a “black void” backed by the titular stone tablets, feature the familiar squabbles between married couple Jeff (Paul Rudd), who also narrates, and Gretchen (Famke Janssen). They're toying with clichés here—he leaves his wife for a beautiful younger woman (Jessica Alba) only to discover that his mistress is really, really young—but the unexpected tweaks are too few and far between to make up for the tired ones.

Eventually the 10 tales start to tie together, and one can't help but wonder whether the overall project would have been more successful had the filmmakers followed this instinct to its conclusion and merged it into a whole, as they did with their 2001 send-up Wet Hot American Summer . As presented, particularly with its theatrical interludes and musical coda, the material works better as sketch comedy—in shorter segments in front of a live audience. Distributor: ThinkFilm
Cast: Paul Rudd, Jessica Alba, Winona Ryder, Adam Brody, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, Rob Corddry, Liev Schreiber, Oliver Platt, Justin Theroux and Ken Marino
Director: David Wain
Screenwriters: David Wain & Ken Marino
Producers: Jonathan Stern, Ken Marino, David Wain and Paul Rudd
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for pervasive strong crude sexual content including dialogue and nudity and for language and some drug material
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: August 3, 2007 ltd., August 17 exp.
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