The Good: Interesting concept, well executed, Decent performances, Very funny.
The Bad: No real character development, Somewhat limited concept, Does not replay as well.
The Basics: A cleverly-executed comedy, The Ten explores a series of situations that remind viewers (ironically) of the importance of the Ten Commandments.
Given how limited many horror movies can be, it is unsurprising that the antithesis – comedies – can be similarly basic in their concept. If Seven was a horror film focused on a killer who is motivated by the seven deadly sins, it is equally ambitious or simple to have a comedy like The Ten. The Ten has the very simple concept of creating vignettes on the Ten Commandments that overlap in minimal ways. Several of the characters recur from sequence to sequence, with “character development” taking the form of them experiencing more variations of violations of the Ten Commandments.
In other words, The Ten has far less in the way of memorable characters and much more in the way of memorable gags or plot twists that disturb while they amuse. More than the characters, much of the joy for viewers comes from how the actors are utilized and how they pop back into the narrative in initially clever ways. After watching the film twice, I can honestly say there are none of the characters I particularly care about, but I enjoyed the movie and enjoyed how the actors were utilized to serve the fairly clever plot concept.
After a beleaguered narrator (who is on the fast track to have an affair himself) explains the concept of the film, the story begins with Stephen Montgomery. Stephen accidentally jumps out of a plane and miraculously survives the fall. However, Stephen is embedded in the ground where he becomes an overnight star. Even though his fiancé Kelly sticks by him, the superstardom that he achieves for the television show based around him goes to his head. Others begin treating him like a god and he arrogantly lets it go to his head, until he loses everything. This is followed by the story of Gloria, who goes to Mexico, meets Jesus there and has a torrid affair with him. When she returns home and has sex with her boyfriend, she calls out “Jesus!” and ruins their relationship, illustrating the importance of not taking the lord’s name in vain. Dr. Glenn Richie (who essentially had a cameo in the first vignette) pops back up in the “Thou Shall Not Murder” sequence where he kills a woman by leaving medical scissors in her body after surgery. While he did the medical malpractice “as a goof,” he is quickly prosecuted, found guilty and goes to prison where he is pretty constantly ass-raped.
After a woman who has two black children who denies (for decades) that they have a father other than the white man who raised them comes clean about her affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger, her children realize that the actor she hired to impersonate Schwarzenegger is more a father than they ever had before, illustrating that it is important to honor one’s father and mother. A convoluted series of events leads to the death of a whole fieldtrip worth of children when they cannot get CAT scans they need when competing neighbors buy truckloads of scanners and go out together to bury the hatchet. In prison, Duane Rosenblum covets Dr. Richie leading to a very dark exchange that results in Richie being horribly violated by Rosenblum (instead of his regular prison rapist!). The story of the drug-dealing Lying Rhino becomes the less for not bearing false witness and men getting together for naked Sundays is the premise for honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy.
The Tenreally goes out of its way to create convoluted situations to make its points. The prison ass rape concept for not coveting your neighbor’s wife is so over-the-top that it avoids the minor discomfort of rape jokes and leaps into the area of taste that actually addresses what bad taste simple rape jokes have. It’s risqué, but the film makes it work. In explaining “Thou Shall Not Steal,” The Ten reaches its highest level of meta-conscious humor: it is Winona Ryder’s Kelly who steals a ventriloquist dummy to have an affair with who illustrates that commandment! In other words, The Ten is not for the comically faint of heart. The humor is ballsy and pushes the envelope, but the movie makes its point well.
And The Ten has a pretty amazing cast, especially for a movie I had never heard of. Led by Paul Rudd, The Ten features established talents like Oliver Platt, Ron Silver, Winona Ryder, Famke Janssen, Jason Sudeikis, Live Schreiber, Justin Theroux, and Jessica Alba. Some have little more than a brief cameo, like Janeane Garofalo (who is in a single sequence for a single scene). Newer talents like Rob Corddry, Rashida Jones, Joe Lo Truglio, Gretchen Mol, and Adam Brody all have good outings in their respective segments.
But more than a cohesive movie, The Ten is a concept film and the concept is quickly established and then beaten to death. It is not unpleasant – though the film has somewhat low replayability – and the star power overshadows the characters many of the performers play , but The Ten is well worth watching for anyone who wants a comedy that is beyond the ordinary.
For other works with Jo Lo Truglio, please visit my reviews of:
I Love You, Man
Check out how this movie stacks up against other movies I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews from best to worst!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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