April 6th, 2008

THE TEN (2007) ** ½

The creators of the mini-classic Wet Hot American Summer return for this intermittently entertaining all-star anthology comedy.  Paul Rudd stars as the narrator who tries in vain to tell us ten interconnected stories that relate somehow (sometimes dubiously) to The Ten Commandments, but his crumbling marriage to his wife (Famke Janssen) and his relationship with a flighty bimbo (Jessica Alba) keeps getting in the way. 

 

The first story is about a guy (Adam Brody) who jumps out of a plane without a parachute and becomes embedded in the Earth.  He survives and becomes a celebrity but it wrecks his relationship with his fiancée (Winona Ryder).  The second story has a virginal librarian (Gretchen Mol) who has a romantic tryst with a Mexican handyman who turns out to be none other than Jesus Christ.  The third story finds a gag obsessed doctor (Ken Marino) leaving scissors in his patient as “a goof”, resulting in her death.  He gets sent to jail and becomes a prison bitch to a cellmate who doesn’t goof around.  The next tale is a hilarious meditation of suburban one-upmanship as a cop (Liev Schreiber) tries to outdo his neighbor by buying dozens of CAT scan machines.  The fifth story has a white mother giving birth to African-American twins.  She thinks the father is Arnold Schwarzenegger, but since he’s busy governing California, she hires an Arnold impersonator (Oliver Platt) to be their surrogate father.  Then she remembers it was actually Arsenio Hall who was the real father.  The sixth and by far the funniest tale based on “Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife” finds the doctor from the third story becoming bored by his ass raping cellmate and finding true love with another ass raping cellmate (Rob Corddry).  Ryder returns for the next story in which she falls madly in love with a ventriloquist dummy.  The eighth story is like an R rated animated version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  “The Lying Rhino” lies so much that when he tries to warn his town that a bunch of wiener dogs are about infect everyone with deadly STD’s, no one believes him.  Rudd finally patches things up with his wife in what passes for the ninth story.  The final chapter ends on a high note (literally) as a husband foregoes church on Sunday so he can prance around the house naked with his drinking buddies while singing a song celebrating his nudeness. 

 

The humor is very hit or miss but when you do find yourself laughing, you’re laughing pretty hard.  The problem is that The Ten’s basic framework sets itself up to be inconsistent.  The prison bitch segment is so wrong it’s hilarious and the final musical number is pretty great, but others (like the first story) are paper thin and go nowhere fast. 

 

Overall, The Ten is similar to The Darwin Awards (which also starred Ryder) in tone and set-up and suffers from the same erratic pacing and inconsistent laughs that plagued that film.  But then again if you ever wanted to see Winona Ryder have sex with a ventriloquist dummy, here’s your chance.