Former members of the comedy troupe The State, David Wain and Ken Marino return to their sketch-comedy roots with The Ten, an intermittently funny anthology film very loosely based on the Ten Commandments. Written by Wain and Marino and directed by Wain (who also helmed the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer), The Ten features many of the strengths that marked the brief but fondly remembered run of The State TV show, including a healthy sense of the absurd and an anything-goes enthusiasm. But like too many of the myriad projects from various combinations of State alums, it also lacks focus and relies on perceived shock value over genuine cleverness.
It also suffers the fate of pretty much every anthology movie, which is that the segments are of wildly varying quality. The only one that works as well as it should features Gretchen Mol as a shy librarian who experiences a sexual awakening with Jesus Christ (yes, that Jesus Christ) while on vacation in Mexico. The lone segment to deal with religion in a meaningful way (despite what the film’s conceit might lead you to believe), it’s also easily the funniest, getting plenty of mileage out of its hunky-slacker depiction of our lord and savior as well as its goofy use of subtitled Spanish.
Ryder gives a gonzo performance that just about sells another segment about oddball love, in which Ryder’s newlywed leaves her husband for a passionate affair with a ventriloquist’s dummy. Mol and Ryder come from more traditional acting backgrounds, and thus are able to more convincingly sell their bizarre characters as emotionally consistent. Although the cast is packed with recognizable comedy veterans—all of the former State players, as well as Rob Corddry, Janeane Garofalo and a number of Saturday Night Live stars—too many of them simply mug and goof like they’re just appearing in tossed-off sketches, which is what the segments too often feel like.
The biggest disappointment is the framing sequence, featuring a curiously flat Rudd in a poorly realized CGI setting both introducing the various stories and playing out his own tale about adultery. At least the subject matter of that one is clear—most of the segments are as clueless about their designated commandment as they are about what’s supposed to be funny.
Paul Rudd, Famke Janssen, Ken Marino, Winona Ryder
Directed by David Wain