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The Ten: Thou shalt not expect much 

click to enlarge Were not sure which commandment this scene from The - Ten presents, but the possibilities are numerous.
  • Were not sure which commandment this scene from The Ten presents, but the possibilities are numerous.

The Ten (R)

Kimball's Twin Peak

David Wain has always induced love-him or leave-him reactions with his projects. The co-creator of the short-lived television series Stella and The State has a unique brand of irreverent potty humor that serves him well at times as it did on his feature debut, the summer-camp classic Wet Hot American Summer and fails him miserably at others. Unfortunately, his obnoxious, half-baked sophomore effort, The Ten, falls into the latter category.

Comprised of loosely connected, intermittently amusing vignettes that are supposed to illustrate each of the Ten Commandments, The Ten is designed to enrich our way of thinking about life and its mysterious meanings. But the comic tone of its juvenile script is so inconsistent, it's more blasphemous than anything else.

In depicting "Thou Shalt Not Kill," film co-writer Ken Marino plays a doctor sent to jail for leaving surgical tools in a patient's body, a move he defends as "just a goof." It turns out the joke is on him when his character's storyline is carried over to the "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife" segment, wherein the good doctor learns a lesson in prison rape, courtesy of Rob Corddry.

The most absurd installment finds Winona Ryder worshipping false idols when she falls in love with the Casanova of ventriloquist dummies. Sure, it's an intriguing premise worthy of a chuckle or two, but it's not long before their ludicrous interspecies coupling becomes tiresome and, worse, uncomfortable.

At least The Ten saves the best for last: an outrageous, animated segment about a lying rhinoceros wins points for originality, and an inspired nude musical finale brings back the entire cast of kooky characters (including the hilarious Justin Theroux as a Mexican Jesus).

The problem with The Ten is that it's unabashedly hit-and-miss. Wain and Marino seem disinterested in exploring the ironies of religion and make no apologies for what works and what doesn't. It feels like they just threw a bunch of random jokes on the wall and cast a lot of recognizable names to make them stick. But, ultimately, few segments deliver on their comic potential.

It also lacks a central storyline to tie these characters and the lessons they learn together. Ostensibly, Paul Rudd's narrator exists to serve that purpose, but despite his insistence on breaking the fourth wall to relate his romantic frustrations with wife Famke Janssen and girlfriend Jessica Alba, the device fails in spectacular fashion. And while there's no doubt that Alba makes for delicious eye candy, her screen time amounts to little more than a cameo, and her limited comedic talents are exposed among the cast of veterans.

Considering its impressive origins, it'd be impossible for The Ten not to deliver at least a few laughs. But the steady stream of jokes has nowhere to take their one-note premises, and the film's abrupt changes in tone render it instantly forgettable.

Wain will have to hope that The Ten will catch on in DVD or as a late-night stoner movie on Comedy Central, because as a theatrical experience, it leaves a lot to be desired. On a scale of 1 to 10, The Ten lands somewhere near 5.

scene@csindy.com

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