Ever have one of those movies that everyone seems to love and you just don't understand the appeal of? For me, one of the biggest examples of that is "Wet Hot American Summer", a cult comedy that seemed to gain a great deal of strength once it hit DVD. The film, from director David Wain ("The State") offered up gags that I didn't think were particularly funny and/or seemed forced.
So, I didn't exactly have great expectations for Wain's "The Ten", a comedy spoof of the ten commandments that offers a series of short films introduced by Jeff (Paul Rudd), who has a wife in Gretchen (Famke Janssen) and a girlfriend in Liz (Jessica Alba). Jeff's story comes later ("Thou shalt not commit adultery."), but before that, we get such stories as one about Kelly (Winona Ryder), whose fiancee (Adam Brody) becomes a superstar (he even gets a sitcom, "Goin' Nowhere") after a skydiving accident leaves him buried in the ground, unable to move - if he moves, it's all over. While this is an incredibly dopey idea, Wain manages to make it ridiculous enough to get a few good chuckles.
Other segments have a shy librarian (Gretchen Mol) having an affair with Jesus (Justin Theroux) on a Summer trip and another with Winona Ryder that revolves around why one should not steal. One particularly bizarre bit ("Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Goods") focuses on two neighbors trying to one-up each other by buying CAT Scan machines, for no apparent reason. When an actual need for the machines presents itself and people are pounding on their doors, the two neighbors are settling their CAT Scan feud at the local bar.
These skits start off with the best of the bunch - Brody is particularly amusing, as is a scene where another actor stuck under rocks talks about finally being able to "catch a break" after Brody's character got stuck in the ground. However, the skit isn't anything brilliant - in fact, it would have been better as a skit on a show like "The State".
That's really the problem with the movie as a whole; the sketches seem more like sketched-out ideas for bits. Rather than a movie, this seems like an overlong episode of something like "The State" or "Upright Citizens Brigade", and some of the sketches here would be considered underwhelming coming from "UCB" or "The State". The whole bit that runs through the introductions from Jeff about his dealing with his wife and girlfriend is just dull, and the two women play particularly one-note, thankless roles. Alba is also not funny. Really not funny. Ryder, however, deserves some kind of award for trying her absolute best during a sequence where she has to seduce a wooden puppet.
"The Ten" isn't without a couple of laughs, but the scenes that don't work range from mediocre to disasterous (a song number that ends the picture is just god awful, and not in a way that produces giggles.) Overall though, the picture really feels so lightweight, uneven and thrown together that it feels like it should have hit Comedy Central instead of theaters. Fans of Wain's movies may want to try it as a rental.
VIDEO: The film's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation was acceptable, with sharpness and detail that remained consistently average, as while definition was never remarkable, the picture didn't appear blurry or hazy, either. Some minor artifacting was spotted in a few darker scenes, but the film otherwise remained clean and clear. Colors looked natural, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film is presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Having a DTS audio option on a little indie comedy was something of a surprise, but it was no surprise that the two audio options didn't really present any noticable differences from one another. Audio quality was up to expectations, with clear dialogue and score.
EXTRAS: Commentary by Wain, Marino, Rudd, David Wain's parents; interview with Wain, Rudd and Marino; 55 minutes of deleted/alternate scenes, "Wainy Days" episodes, "Making of the Ten" and DVD-ROM ringtones and wallpaper.
Final Thoughts: "The Ten" isn't without a couple of laughs, but the scenes that don't work range from mediocre to disasterous. Overall though, the picture really feels so lightweight, uneven and thrown together that it feels like it should have hit Comedy Central instead of theaters. Fans of Wain's movies may want to try it as a rental.
The Film C