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The Ten (2007)
City Lights Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/15/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/1/2008
Most any narrative film is made up of one main idea (or concept) and several little ideas. In theory, the main idea gives an overall sense of what the movie is about, and the little ideas then fill in the blanks. In a perfect movie, all of these pieces work together in synch. There are even movies where the main idea may seem trite, but the little ideas really hit a home run (such as the recent comediesThe Brothers Solomon and The Heartbreak Kid). And there are movies which are the exact opposite. The Ten is made up of ten short segments which focus on The Ten Commandments. Comedic interpretations of The Ten Commandments is a good main idea. However, The Ten is full of bad little ideas.
Jeff Reigert (Paul Rudd) hosts this film, as he introduces the ten stories of The Ten (in between segments in which he attempts to straighten out his love-life). The stories are as follows. In "Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me", Stephen Montgomery (Adam Brody) becomes imbedded in the ground following a parachute accident and becomes a national icon. "Thou Shall Not Take the Lord's Name in Vain", has shy librarian Gloria Jennings (Gretchen Mol) traveling to Mexico and falling love with a man named Jesus (Justin Theroux). "Thou Shall Not Murder" features Dr. Glenn Richie (Ken Marino) who leaves a surgical instrument inside of a patient as a "goof". When their father dies in "Honor Thy Mother and Father", brothers Todd (Arlen Escarpeta) and Greg (Cedric Sanders), who are African-American, ask their mother (Kerri Kenney-Silver), who is white, about their lineage, and they learn about their mother's sordid past. "Thy Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Goods" explores how neighbors Paul (Joe Lo Truglio) and Ray (Liev Schreiber) try to one-up one another...by purchasing medical equipment. "Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife" shows how Dr. Glenn Richie has become very popular...in prison. "Thou Shall Not Steal" shows Kelly LaFonda (Winona Ryder) (who used to date Stephen Montgomery) falling in love with a ventriloquist's dummy. "Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor" tells the story of an animated rhino (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) who is a compulsive liar. "Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery" has host Jeff Reigert getting involved in the story as he confronts his ex-wife. And finally, in "Thou Shall Honor the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy", Oliver (A.D. Miles) discovers that he likes staying home and being naked more than he likes going to church.
The Ten was made by former members of the comedy troupe The State. The film was directed by David Wain and written by Wain and Ken Marino. This group also made the 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer. That movie was a spoof of summer camp movies, specifically Meatballs. While Wet Hot American Summer wasn't the most straight-forward spoof ever made (it did, after all, feature a talking can of beans), it was, for the most part, fairly accessible. The Ten, however, strays very far from the mainstream.
Wain, Marino, and their cohort, star and producer Paul Rudd deserve credit for trying something different. Again, making short vignettes based on The Ten Commandments is a good idea, and they have certainly created unique stories of examine each of the ten rules. I would dare to say that most writers wouldn't have come anywhere close to brainstorming the odd characters and situations which we see here. So, The Ten could have been a very safe "Hey, look at us making fun of religion movie", but the filmmakers really went out of their way to give each piece a very unique perspective.
The problems is that despite all of this creativity, the movie simply isn't funny. It almost seems that Wain and Marino have gone so far into left field that they've forgotten what it means to be humorous. That's not to say that there aren't any funny moments in the film, but I only laughed out loud once, and most every other occasion was merely a polite chuckle. No, most every story is so bizarre -- especially the "Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Goods" -- that the viewer isn't sure how they are supposed to feel. I'm not even sure if I know how to classify the attempts at humor here. There aren't many visual jokes or clever lines. For the most part, the movie simply wants to dazzle us with its bizarre situations and it simply doesn't work.
The ultimate failure of the The Ten is disheartening for two reasons. One, as mentioned above, great idea. Two, just look at that cast. This movie is simply filled wall-to-wall with familiar faces and I'm sure that many will snatch this one up at the video store expecting to have a great time with actors that they know and love. (Rudd is plastered front and center on the box.) But, most viewers will find themselves confused and angry when they finish -- if they finish -- this odd and humorless film.
The Ten comes to DVD courtesy of City Lights Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 (despite the fact that the box claims that it's 1.85:1) and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks pretty good, as the image is sharp and clear. The daytime scenes show no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the film has a nicely realistic look to it. I noted some mild artifacting at times, but otherwise this is a clear transfer which belies its low budget. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. (The DVD box sports the DTS logo, but there's not DTS track to be had here.) The audio here is good, but unremarkable. A few key scenes sported some stereo and surround effects, but for the most part, the audio stays in the center channel.
The Ten DVD contains an assortment of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring director/co-writer David Wain, co-writer/actor Ken Marino, and actor Paul Rudd. They are also joined by David's parents, Nina and Norman Wain, who agree that the movie doesn't work as a whole. The speakers give us some nice details about the film, as in the actors and locations, but they also joke around a lot. The ADDITIONAL SCENES section contains extra material from 16 parts of the film, plus an introduction from Wain, Marino, and Rudd. Thus, we have deleted material from nearly every chapter in the movie. Unfortunately, the quality of the material here equals that in the film. So, if you liked the movie, then you'll most likely enjoy what is here. The problem here is that there is no "Play All" choice, so one must work through each segment at a time. The DVD contains an Interview with Wain, Marino, and Rudd from the 2007 South-by-Southwest Film Festival (8 minutes). They have a few serious comments about the movie, but they mostly kid around. "Wainy Days" (3 minutes) is an episode of David Wain's on-line show with a guest spot by Elizabeth Banks. This wasn't very funny and didn't make me want to track down any more episodes. "The Making of The Ten" (5 minutes) is made up of on-set interviews with the cast and filmmakers and a great deal of behind-the-scenes video. The final extras are both the rated and unrated TRAILERS for the film.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long