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Sep 11, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: The Ten

There's something to be said for the peaks and valleys of absurdist sketch comedy. Unlike the rote predictability of sketch shows like MadTV and Saturday Night Live, oddball shows like The State, Stella, and Upright Citizen's Brigade seem to either succeed massively or fall flat on their face (oh wait, SNL has fallen flat on their face almost constantly in the last few years).

David Wain's The Ten is no different. A humorous take on the Ten Commandments, done anthology-stlye with a 10 minute sketch for each commandment, there's a variance in quality not only between each sketch, but within each sketch, right down to a minute-by-minute basis. On the plus side, though, this is the rare film that significantly picks up steam as it goes, helped by the meandering that the characters do from sketch to sketch. Each story has its own plot and set of main characters, but an ancillary performer in one commandment may turn out to be the star of the next, and vice-versa.

Paul Rudd serves as a de-facto narrator for the ten stories, appearing in the beginning and in between each, along with co-stars Famke Jensen (playing his wife) and Jessica Alba (playing a woman he has an affair with). Unfortunately, each sequence (filmed on a sound stage, play-like, with a black background and sparse props) with the normally likable Rudd drags the movie down more and more, removing any steam the sketches had picked up. Simply showing the stone tablets in between and moving on would have made the film much better (Rudd and Jensen star in one of the ten, which isn't great but doesn't fall flat, either).

The sketches themselves are, as I said, hit or miss. The standout features Gretchen Mol as a frigid librarian on a vacation to Mexico. While enjoying her stay and practicing her Spanish, she encounters a local handyman and ends up having a passionate affair with him. Trust me, it's gold all around. Other highlights including Liev Schrieber trying to one-up his neighbor in a "who can own the most CT scan machines" contest, and Winona Ryder having the hots for a dummy. No, really. Also, Rob Corddry and Ken Marino have an affair of their own...in prison.

Despite the Rudd interludes and some of the misses, The Ten is definitely worth catching. Though the whole "Ten Commandments" premise is only kinda sorta stuck to, the rampant absurdity and excellent writing will keep you amused, if not laughing, for a vast majority of the time. Seeing Winona Ryder mount a ventriloquist dummy doesn't hurt, either.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"

3 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: The Ten"

Steve said...

The Mexico skit with Gretchen Mol was so damn funny!


Desmond said...

Amen, brotha. Totally agree on the general quality of the movie, the Paul Rudd bits could have been more developed.

Matt said...

I'd heard some negative comments about this film, but I see it as a potential rental now.