If you're a fan of comedic experiments like The State, Stella and Wet Hot American Summer, you're bound to find more than a few solid laughs in The Ten, a skit-intensive (and entirely bizarre) amalgam of ideas -- clever, silly and just plain stupid. Those who don't see the humor in this sort of stream-of-consciousness, ultra-strange and intensely self-referential material will walk out of The Ten with their reaction phasers set firmly on "hate" -- but I discovered a solid handful of worthwhile chuckles in the flick, most of which come from the smoothly reliable Paul Rudd and the still-adorable Winona Ryder.
The framework is a fairly sketchy one: Rudd introduces a series of broad and generally goofy little set pieces, each of which are based on one of the Ten Commandments. Of the ten sketches (and the framing device) perhaps half of them deliver some really funny schtick, while some of 'em simply flop around the screen until the next bit comes along. But just like an anthology flick is only as good as its most entertaining sections, The Ten manages to fly only during its best moments. Here's what's on offer here:
- A guy leaps from an airplane, smashes into the ground, survives and becomes a national sensation -- despite the fact that he's now stuck in the ground forever.
- A mousy-yet-hot virgin (Gretchen Mol!) has a fling in Mexico with Jesus Christ.
- A doctor intentionally leaves a surgical tool inside a patient as a "goof," but is sent to jail when she dies.
- A pair of neighbors care about nothing else besides owning one more cat-scan machine than the other.
- A white woman with two black sons explains that their father is none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger -- which still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. (Especially considering that Ahnold is played here by Oliver Platt.)
- Rob Corddry covets his neighbor's wife, which wouldn't be all that weird if the characters weren't in an all-male prison.
- A newly-wed Winona Ryder falls madly in love with a ventriloquist's dummy.
- Animated sequence! A lying rhino learns about "crying wolf" the (very) hard way.
- A suburban husband skips church and starts a crazy trend that involves completely naked men and the musical stylings of Roberta Flack.
- Plus we get a framing story in which Rudd alienates his lovely wife (Famke Janssen) so he can run off with Jessica Alba ... and then Dianne Weist.
So clearly we're talking about some really wild, weird and "out there" comedic hijinks, and how much you're able to enjoy The Ten will entirely depend on your own tolerance for random silliness and seriously strange goofiness. As a "movie" movie, the thing's kind of a mess, but as a novelty item, I'd say there's just enough here to warrant a look. In addition to the playful performers mentioned above, director David Wain has also enlisted the likes of Liev Schreiber, Adam Brody, Kerri Kenney and Justin Theroux. Co-writer Ken Marino also contributes a fair share of loopy lunacy.
Basically I'd call The Ten a "glass half full" experience. While some of the skits yield precisely zero in the laughs department (far as I'm concerned, anyway), a few of 'em hit me square in the funny bone and had me chuckling like a dork. (For example, skit #1 is pretty damn terrible, but it's followed by another one that's spot-on and quite humorous indeed.) Plus I've always found Paul Rudd to be an effortlessly amusing guy, and since he has the most screen time in The Ten, I was able to wring a few extra giggles out of his sequences. Other standouts include Corddry, Marino and Theroux .. and who knew Liev Schreiber could be so damn funny?
Obviously not a mainstream-style comedy that'll appeal to a wide audience of braying knuckleheads (like, say, Meet the Fockers), The Ten feels a little like a "cult flick" waiting to happen. It's not as consistently amusing as Wain's Wet Hot American Summer -- but it's also quite a bit funnier than your average episode of Saturday Night Live. And there's a really silly musical number at the end that I really liked.