Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Irreverence: The Ten

One of the best things about having my own blog is getting to write about whatever I want. If I'm obsessed with certain clip-show hosts turned NBC stars, I can pen three or four posts and those who don't want to read them, don't have to. The other day, a friend on Facebook said she hoped her writing didn't sound too fangirl. "Dude," I responded, "I started writing because I'm a fangirl."

With that in mind, I hereby declare July to be State Month here on the ol' Unpro. For the next few weeks, I will explore the subsequent work of my eleven favorite Tisch alums (well, Michael Ian Black dropped out and Michael Showalter ended up graduating from Brown...yeah, I'm the nerd who knows this). First up, David Wain's 2007 Biblical satire, The Ten.

Though he was hysterical as a performer on The State, David Wain also did a lot off camera. Who can forget the episode when he re-edited the opening credits? Not I.

Since The State ended, Wain's concentrated on directing. Between Wet Hot American Summer (read my friend Robin's hysterical love letter to the film here) and Role Models, there was The Ten.

I first saw The Ten when it was released in 2007. I believe it was supposed to coincide with the release of The State on DVD. However, the latter was put off for another two years because of yet another battle over music rights. I remember liking, not loving, the movie. Some scenes worked much better than others. It was decidedly okay.

Once I revisited it, I gained a new appreciation. Though some scenes still work way better than others.

It goes like this: each of the Ten Commandments is presented as a vignette. Some are slapstick, some dark, some just plain bizarre (in other words, vintage State). Hosting the vignettes, and starring in "Thou shalt not commit adultery" is Paul Rudd in his nicest of nice-guy modes. Except not really, because he's cheating on his wife (Famke Janssen) with a younger woman (Jessica Alba). Some characters appear in multiple vignettes, such as Ken Marino (who co-wrote the film with Wain) as a doctor who kills a patient "as a goof" and ends up the object of two rapists' affection in prison. And it's really, really funny.

Again, The Ten has its weak points. First, I know every comedy needs a straight man, but Rudd is just so much funnier when he gets to be goofy, which doesn't happen nearly often enough thanks to his conventional good looks. The commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is almost entirely animated and it comes across like Wain is trying and failing to ape Monty Python. And I can't decide whether Winona Ryder's ventriloquist dummy-loving character is humorous or just whiny. Then again, I always was on the fence about Ryder when she wasn't playing Lydia Dietz or Jo March.

That said, The Ten is worth a rental, for the following awesome vignettes:
  • "Thou shalt have no other gods before me:" A regular Joe (Adam Brody) gets stuck in an awkward position following a skydiving accident, and experiences the ups and downs of sudden fame and the hubris that accompanies it. This represents the one and only time I have liked Adam Brody.
  • "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain:" On a Mexican getaway, a shy librarian (Gretchen Mol, who really should have a better career) has a love affair with a carpenter named Jesus (Justin Theroux, who needs to break up with Jennifer Aniston and marry me instead. No offense, Jen, but I'd be a better writing partner).
  • "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife:" The aforementioned vignettes featuring Marino's murderous doctor, who gets what's coming to him (ha) in prison. Rob Corddry is hysterical as a fellow prisoner with his eye on Marino, and his scenes are oddly romantic.
  • "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods:" Liev Schreiber takes a break from his uber-serious typecasting as a suburban dude competing with his neighbor (Joe Lo Truglio) over...CAT scan machines.
  • And finally, "Honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy:" A husband and father (A.D. Miles) finds a fulfilling alternative to church...involving a lot of nudity. And it ends with a musical number.
However, what may be the absolute best best best thing about The Ten: all of The State appears. Some have leading roles in the vignettes, others pop up in Rudd's segments (really, does anyone drop the F bomb better than Tom Lennon?), a few are blink-and-you'll-miss-it (though I never miss naked Ben Garant), and one shows up in a photograph (Michael Patrick Jann, who had a scheduling conflict the day he was supposed to film). For fangirls like me, it was so much fun to pick out everybody--and to marvel, "Oh cool!  They still get along!" in my little fangirl reptile brain.

So declareth The Unprofessional Critic:

Thou shalt Netflix The Ten.

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