The Ten **1/2

Posted: August 03, 2007

 

Directed by David Wain. With Jessica Alba, Adam Brody, Famke Janssen, Paul Rudd and Winona Ryder. Distributed by ThinkFilm. No MPAA rating (profanity, nudity, crude humor, adult themes). 1 hour, 33 mins. Playing at Ritz At the Bourse and Showcase at Ritz Center/NJ.

Moses' storied tablets get the sketch-comedy treatment in The Ten, a hit-and-miss omnibus brought to blasphemous life by a game troupe that includes Jessica Alba, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Famke Janssen, Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder and Liev Schreiber. (The Ten premiered at the Philadelphia Film Festival in April.)

Directed by David Wain, and written by Wain and Ken Marino - both of the '90s cult comedy gang (and MTV show) The State - The Ten handles its "shalts" and "shalt nots" in profane, irreverent, nutball ways. A poker-faced Paul Rudd introduces the chapters - and occasionally takes a break to spar with his ex (Janssen), or his giddy new gal pal (Alba).

First off is "Thou shalt have no other god before me." Its Monty Pythonesque absurdism is typical: An engaged couple (Brody and Ryder) go skydiving, but he exits the plane without his 'chute. Miraculously, he survives the fall, but is lodged torso-deep in the ground; if he moves, he'll die. The media swarm, a cult forms, a hit sitcom is built around him (literally), and so on.

Gretchen Mol stars as a 35-year-old virgin deflowered in lusty romance-novel fashion on a trip to Mexico. Her hunky lover-boy's name? Jesus Christ (played by Justin Theroux). The segment? "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain."

A few actors appear in multiple segments. Ryder, the dismayed fiance in the first episode, lets things fly in "Thou shalt not steal." As a newlywed who falls for a ventriloquist's dummy, the actress displays a heretofore little-seen, and seemingly effortless, comic insanity. Her sloppy barroom make-out session with the wooden doll is a high point. - Steven Rea

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