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MiraJeff Reviews THE TEN!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. MiraJeff’s got a couple of things for you today, including this look at THE TEN, the new film from many of the guys behind The State.

Greetings AICN, MiraJeff here with a look at The Ten, the sophomore effort from director David Wain, co-written by Wain and Diggers scribe Ken Marino. The Ten is basically a bunch of loosely connected sketches that illustrate The Ten Commandments. The question you're all asking, or would be if this was actually a dialogue, is "How does it stack up against Wet Hot American Summer?" And the answer you're all waiting for, but only for a few words longer, is "not well." Though laugh-out-loud funny at times, The Ten is fairly inconsistent in the laughs department, and for something as broad as this, that's a pretty serious indictment. Let me give everyone some background. I was too young to truly appreciate The State for all its comic brilliance but what I have seen I still quote to this day (I'm outta heeeeerreee!!) and I did attend a Jewish summer camp for 12 years as both a camper and a counselor, so the first time I saw Wet Hot American Summer, it was like someone made a movie of my childhood summers, only there were girls and heroin. I hold Wet Hot very dear to my heart, the same way middle-aged Texans can look back at Dazed and Confused and see their high school years on the big screen. As for "The Baxter," I loved it enough to put it on my Top Ten list of 2005. It's a sweet, big-hearted and often hilarious throwback to the screwball comedies of the 40s and 50s and it's disheartening to see how truly underappreciated it was. But somewhere along the way, Wain and Co. lost me. I never "got" Stella. Every sketch seemed to end with Wain jerking off an oversized dildo. I can understand how it developed a cult following, but it did nothing for me personally. And "Diggers" was a mixed bag for me, but then again, that wasn't really a comedy, more of a drama. Overall, the Wain gang is batting just over .500 for me, so I gave 'em the benefit of the doubt. Paul Rudd stars as our narrator, Jeff Reigert. Jeff is going through a difficult time with his girlfriend, Famke Janssen, and he vents his frustrations directly to us, his captive audience, before illustrating his views on relationships and God's masterplan through ten vignettes, designed to enrich our way of thinking about life and its mysterious meanings. First story follows Adam Brody as he jumps out of a plane without his parachute, only to survive and find himself literally stuck in the ground. If anyone tries to move him he'll die. Winona Ryder plays his girlfriend while Ken Marino plays the doctor. Brody becomes a sensation, gracing the cover of every national magazine. Entertainment Tonight does a piece on him. Thanks to his new agent, played by Ron Silver, he becomes the star of his own sitcom, Goin' Nowhere, and develops the bad cocaine problem that inevitably follows anyone's rise to stardom. This was pretty much a one-joke segment and a fitting introduction to the film's particular brand of comedic stylings. Later on, Ryder reprises the character, only now it's her wedding night and she's getting married to Marino, but she falls in love with a ventriloquist's dummy. The premise is promising and worthy of a chuckle or two, but watching her pretend to be in love with a puppet for ten minutes gave me a hard-on for the exit. A subtitled segment starring Gretchen Mol as a virgin who gets deflowered by a Mexican Jesus manages to finnagle a couple of laughs thanks to the genius casting of Justin Theroux as the Son of God. Marino's "Just a Goof" vignette is funny despite admittedly relying on one joke for laughs. The shenanigans continue when Marino's doctor character is sent to prison where Rob Corddry develops the hots for him. It's funny in spurts (if you get a kick out of homosexual rape), but it's not enough to sustain an entire vignette. At least its smug Michael Ian Black cameo (as if there is any other kind) brought a smile to my face. Later on, there's another one-joke scene that reunites Rudd with his now ex-girlfriend Janssen. There's still some chemistry between them but now Rudd's unavailable because he's married to the actress Dianne Wiest, who sadly, does not appear. The complete randomness of Wiest is what makes the scene tolerable and briefly hilarious, but the joke ultimately dies because it has nowhere to go. One segment could be called Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's CAT Scan machines, as Liev Schreiber (who knew he could do comedy?) and Joe Lo Truglio compete with each other to see who can own the most CAT Scan machines. I mean, that's a sketch. That's not a movie, or even worthy of belonging in a movie. But as it happens, it's one of the better segments in the film. Another completely out-there segment stars Kathi Kenney-Silver of Reno 911! as a mother of two African-American sons who explains their race by admitting that Arnold Schwarzenegger is their father. So she hires an actor (a game Oliver Platt) to pose as Ahnuld and bond with her boys. The funniest moment involves the three of them playing in a pile of leaves and then racing each other inside the house. In proper cinematic fashion, The Ten saves the best for last. An animated segment about a lying Rhino wins points for how outrageously different it is, and lastly, an inspired final segment stars A.D. Miles as a guy who ditches Church to hang out with his buddies... naked. They listen to the Flecktones and barbecue in the nude. Besides a few conspicuously bare asses, there isn't any full frontal male nudity, much to my relief. That final segment segues into a musical number featuring the entire cast of characters. Wain, Showalter and the Night at the Museum guys (so true it hurts), Tom Lennon and Ben Garant, also appear briefly in the film, which lists no less than 21 producers (how? why?) on IMDB. Also, I was extremely saddened to learn that Elizabeth Banks did not make an appearance. She's always great. Maybe she was busy filming something else, but Wain seems to try and make up for her absence with the casting of Jessica Alba, whose screentime amounts to little more than a cameo. Granted, she looks smokin' hot, but what else can you say about her at this point, seriously? She clearly couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. I mean, I don't think ScoJo is a great actress either but at least she's capable of a Match Point or a Girl With the Pearl Earring. (You can save that Lost in Translation bull for another critic). Alba, on the other hand, has done absolutely nothing to make me think she's the least bit talented. It says a lot about her filmography that her best performance was probably in Into the Blue, and her upcoming projects such as Awake (with Hayden Christensen) and the remake of The Eye (which I did a set visit for that was so unremarkable I decided not to even write about it) don't inspire much confidence either, although I do think she has a hit on her hands with Good Luck Chuck, which I'm hoping will show off her prowess for physical comedy the same way There's Something About Mary made a case for Cameron Diaz. Still, I'm just not convinced that Alba will be around in 10-15 years time. The great ones make it their business to stick around. Man it kills me to pile on Marino twice in a row considering the respect I have for his work, and what a fan I am of his previous collaborations with Wain, but The Ten is just not very good. And as a movie movie, it's actually not very good at all. (Come to think of it, Scott Weinberg's review at Cinematical says more or less the same thing.) I could see it hitting its stride on DVD, as a late-night stoner movie or even a Comedy Central staple, but as a theatrical experience it leaves a lot to be desired. The point is, a laugh here and a laugh there does not make for a good comedy. I wanted a story, something to tie these characters and the lessons they learn together, and though Rudd's narrator character seems to serve that purpose, its execution ultimately fails. The film switches between deadpan and utter ridiculousity (new word, add it to your cocktionaries), and if that's your bag, then by all means, check it out, but if I had to rank The Ten on a scale of one to ten, it'd land somewhere around 5. That'll do it for me, folks. I'll be back with reviews of Rocket Science, King of California, The Nines and 3:10 to Yuma. All you devoted fans of The State can direct your hate mail to I just call 'em like I see 'em, gang, 'Til next time, this is MiraJeff signing off...
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