It’s hard to measure just how bad “The Ten” actually is. But I’ll give it a shot.
In a way, this series of skits depicting each of the Ten Commandments is all the worse because a couple of the skits are actually humorous. But this only serves to point out the filmmaker’s either got lucky, or they simply didn’t have the material for the other eight skits and decided to go ahead and make a film anyway.
Jeff (Paul Rudd) is having a fight with his wife backstage before quickly trotting out onto the bare stage to address us directly. The stage is bare except for two large stone tablets depicting the Ten Commandments. Jeff quickly apologizes for his tardiness and then sets up the concept of the film; we are going to watch ten “funny” skits about the items written on the stone tablets. I wish they had written “Funny” in stone. Then, I could’ve used that as a guarantee and tried to get my money back.
The first story is about Stephen (Adam Brody, TV’s “The OC”), a young man who jumps out of a plane without his parachute. His fiancée, Kelly (Winona Ryder) hurries to the landing site and finds he is half buried by the impact of the fall. A doctor examines him and determines the only reason he is still alive is because he hasn’t been moved. Stephen soon becomes a celebrity (tabloids, magazines, a new television comedy) and is worshipped by some as a new God, so his fame is fleeting. Kelly falls in love with he local newscaster and soon Stephen is left alone to spend the remainder of his years half buried in the ground.
Then Jeff returns, but this time, a hat stand and a chair are now sitting on the bare stage. His wife, Gretchen (Famke Janssen, “GoldenEye”) comes out and they fight.
Then the second story begins, giving us welcome relief from the ongoing college improv class we get to experience with Rudd and Jansen. The second story is actually the best and features Gretchen Mol as Gloria, a small town librarian who travels to a small town in Mexico and meets a handyman who calls himself Jesus (Justin Theroux, “Six Feet Under”, “Mulholland Falls”). Jesus and Gloria have a torrid affair which is also Gloria’s deflowering. When Gloria learns Jesus may actually be Jesus Christ, he offers to postpone the Rapture, so they can continue the affair. She can’t handle it and returns home to marry Oliver (A.D. Miles) and they have kids.
Then, Jeff returns and his new girlfriend, Liz (Jessica Alba) runs out and gives him a couple of kisses and asks him to buy her a pony. Then story number three begins. And… Oh, you get the idea.
It is simply astonishing how much comedic talent is wasted on “The Ten”. Paul Rudd, who was so funny in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”, is simply deadly in “Ten”. As our guide through the ten stories, he appears on stage, with minimal dressing, trying to act out little vignettes with Jansen and Alba. These little moments are so poorly written, conceived and executed they bring back memories of bad college improv classes, the type where your drama teacher would implore you to find the character’s inner child. Buy her a pony? This is just such an irritating concept it is almost too painful to remember. Why did they think these moments would be funny? Why are they even necessary? Late in the film, Rudd and Jansen appear again as Jeff and Gretchen, in one of the skits when they meet up later on a New York City street. This skit seems to revolve around Rudd’s character having an affair with actress Dianne Wiest. But we don’t ever see or hear her. It probably sounds a lot funnier than it actually is.
Justin Theroux, who portrays Jesus in the second story, is the best thing about the film. He plays the role very straight, never speaking a word of English and quickly becomes a character lifted right out of a telenovela.
Oliver Platt has a funny moment playing an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator who may be the father of a Caucasian woman’s two black sons. It is an amusing idea, but it doesn’t go anywhere. This is the second joke which caused me to laugh in the 90 minute plus film. God, was it only 90 minutes? It seemed like I traveled through all nine circles of hell.
Liev Schreiber plays a doctor who has to have everything the doctor next door has. Ken Marino plays another doctor who leaves some scissors in a patient as a ‘goof’ and ends up going to prison where he meets Rob Cordry’s Duane. A lot of the film’s comedy is supposed to be derived from simply repeating things. Many times. Marino’s doctor keeps stating “But it was a ‘goof’”, as though this is supposed to mean something and be funny. The filmmakers apparently thought this was funny because they use the same idea later, when Rudd keeps mentioning actress Dianne Weist’s name.
Ryder returns in another skit and falls in love with a ventriloquist dummy. Miles’ Oliver returns and decides he doesn’t want to go to church with Gloria and would rather stay home, naked and enjoy the time alone. Soon, he has a bunch of male friends (including Bobby Cannavale) who are also unable to go to church and come over to hang out naked and listen to Roberta Flack songs. But it isn’t a gay thing as they constantly reassure each other.
After the ten stories are over, the cast gets together to have a little jam session, singing a song one of the characters sang in the film. No, I’m not kidding.
This film apparently made someone laugh. A lot. Because I believe the rights to distribute it were purchased at Sundance for $4.5 million dollars. Considering it looks like it cost $10 to make, someone made a lot of profit. It certainly won’t make its money back during its theatrical run.
Did anything I described about the film even cause a slight smile on your face? If so, maybe you will enjoy it. The trailers were hilarious, but the film is far from it. You, dear reader, have been warned.