Directed by David Wain. Starring Paul Rudd, Famke Janssen, Winona Ryder, Jessica Alba, Ken Marino, Gretchen Mol, Liev Schreiber, A.D. Miles, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Mather Zickel, Justin Theroux, Adam Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Rob Corddry. (2007, R, 93 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Aug. 17, 2007
It’s unlikely that Moses would recognize the shalls and shall-nots in this anthology of quirky comedy sketches with a contemporary take on the Ten Commandments. This is theatre of the absurd for very particularized tastes, deeply rooted in the humoristic style of the comedy troupe the State, which was featured in a series on MTV in the mid-Nineties. If you’re looking for ha-ha funny, then The Ten is probably not for you – you’ll be more likely scratching your head in befuddled wonderment than laughing your ass off at this hit-or-miss brand of humor. A miscast Rudd serves as host here, introducing each of the 10 episodes as part of a running commentary on his messed-up love life. In other more memorable films, Rudd’s sly and subtle delivery of a one-liner has worked as an asset, but he seems out of place in this format, where he is center-stage like a stand-up comedian. Most of his monologues fall flat, sometimes embarrassingly so. (As his respective wife and mistress, Janssen and Alba, fare no better in their less-than-one-dimensional roles.) The satire in a couple of the sketches works well, particularly in the one addressing the sin of coveting thy neighbor’s goods, which in this instance take the form of CAT scan machines. The parody of the Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose in an animated episode about a lying rhinocerous, however, will go right over most viewers' heads. As I mentioned earlier, The Ten offers a brand of comedy for very particularized tastes, though everyone should appreciate the in-joke of featuring Ryder in the skit about the Eighth Commandment. For those of you less versed in the Bible, that’s the one that says thou shall not steal.