The Ten review by Jackass Tom

This is the second film I have reviewed that is created by a good chunk (in this case 90%) of a cult favorite of mine, The State. The sketch team of 10 guys and 1 girl, made some of the best short lived sketch comedy to date in the early 90s. My friends and I in college would watch the show well past its expiration thanks to a few poorly conditioned VHS tapes I still have laying around to this day. Now if all this bootlegging of sketch comedy sounds like déjà vu, it’s probably because I may have mentioned this in my review of Wet Hot American Summer which was also created by some of the State members. It’s hard to know what to expect when looking at the DVD box of The Ten. Comedy: yes. Centered around the Ten Commandments: yes. But aside from that it’s tough to say with long list of actors how far it will go. Will it be a skewering of the basis of most major religions or just some good old fashioned comedy in the State style?

The Ten is a movie that splits the Ten Commandments into ten short sketch comedy segments. Each sketch is “inspired” by its commandment but not necessarily a teaching of the commandment as much as it is a punch line of the commandment. Jeff (Paul Rudd) is the narrator who introduces each of the shorts in a large black cavity of a “house” that contains two five story tablets that look like something Charlton Heston might have once held. Each time he introduces a new one we also get a comical look into Jeff’s troubled personal life. The shorts are told tongue in cheek. For example, the “Thou Shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” story shows two mustached neighbors, Ray (Live Schrieber) and Paul (Joe Lo Truglio) competing with each other for who can own the most cat-scan machines. It gets to the point where every inch of both homes is covered in cat-scan machines for no other reason than one-ups-man-ship. There is really no lesson, just humor. There is also no real direct skewering of religion, which I found surprising. The movie really takes no stance for or against religion but instead the comedians use the commandments as an improv for their goofy brand of comedy.

The writers of The Ten are David Wain (who also directs) and Ken Marino. They also worked together on the MTV sketch comedy show from the early 90s called The State and the 2001 film Wet, Hot American Summer; a movie that also included many of The State actors. Fans of The State will find a lot to love about The Ten. For starters, ten of the original eleven State members appear in this film and their influences from the show can be felt in each sketch. Like the show, each of sketches a large dose of absurdity taken seriously to generate a lions share of laughs. A good junk of the humor is low-brow with plenty of nude jokes, surgery gone bad jokes, and one actress humping a ventriloquist dummy; this is a group with no sacred cows. The Ten is a lot better and is a lot funnier than Wet Hot American Summer. Part of it has to do with the solid cast. Aside from the former sketch troop and aforementioned Paul Rudd and Liev Schrieber are joined by Famke Janssen, Adam Brody, Jessica Alba, Oliver Platt, Winona Ryder, and Gretchen Mol. It’s a pretty impressive selection of current actors for a movie that didn’t have a very wide release outside of independent film fest circuits. Another improvement over WHAS was the use of vignettes versus doing a start to finish narrative. Its obvious that Wain and Marino still favor the short story characters over developing a 90 minute 3-act performance so its best that they stick to shorts as opposed to trying to force short sketches into a 3-act performance like WHAS.

With The Ten you should be prepared for a movie that doesn’t follow normal film conventions and works more like a series of short improvs. The film is highly enjoyable, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The State fans, such as myself, should definitely pick this up and give it a purchase. This is one of those movies that I hope finds a new life in the video stores.

7 out of 10 Jackasses
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