Los Angeles Times

'The Ten'

David Wain, director of "Wet Hot American Summer," creator of the sketch comedy series "The State" and founding member of the improv troupe Stella, brings his popular brand of surrealist yet mundane humor to the big screen with more or less dreadful results.

A collection of short films based on the Ten Commandments, "The Ten" is presented by Paul Rudd as a narrator character who lives in a black void with a pair of gigantic stone tablets lurking in the background. His marriage (Famke Janssen plays his wife) is falling apart, mostly due to an affair with Jessica Alba's character. The amazing cast -- which includes, among others, Liev Schreiber, Winona Ryder, Rob Corddry, Janeane (for, like, a nanosecond) Garofalo, Oliver Platt, Justin Theroux, Gretchen Mol and why go on? -- is parceled out among 10 increasingly silly shorts, including one about a man who jumps from a plane without his parachute and lives the rest of his life impaled in the ground, a woman who leaves her fiancé for a ventriloquist's dummy and two neighbors who compete to see who can buy the most CAT-scan machines.

The best film, based on not taking the Lord's name in vain, stars Theroux as a carpenter in a small Mexican village who happens to be not just any Jesús but the actual Jesus Christ, and who has a torrid affair with Mol, a librarian on vacation. Narrated in a deadpan documentary style by a Spanish-speaking commentator and subtitled in English, it's a very funny sendup of sundry sacred cows and taboos.

Despite many giddy moments (and an extremely committed and very funny performance by Ryder), the conceit becomes gradually more exhausting, until somewhere around the seventh commandment you're ready to choose God's wrath over any more overproduced, A-list-acted throwaway TV sketches.


"The Ten." MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong crude sexual content including dialogue and nudity, and for language and some drug material. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In selected theaters.

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