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Arts & Culture

The Ten

The ten vignettes begin with modest humor. In the first story, a man jumps from a plane without a chute and ends up planted in the groundbut still alive. He can remain alive but only if he stays in the ground. This prompts people to worship him (don't ask me why, I didn't write it). From here it's pretty much downhill. There are men who want to hang out at home naked; a doctor who likes to "goof" with his patients and leaves a lethal pair of scissors in one woman; and at rock bottom there's Winona Ryder falling in love with a ventriloquist dummy. The sex scenes are painfully unfunny and never find the laughs the way the puppet sex in

Team America did. Ryder's scenes actually got to the point where you felt embarrassed for herhas her career sunk this low?

Got wood? Winona Ryder and her wooden pal in The Ten (Thinkfilm)

The Ten not only fails to generate laughs, it even fails to explore the commandments in any real or humorous wayits as if the filmmakers never bothered to read what was written on those tablets. The film is the creation of David Wain and Ken Marino, the team responsible for Wet Hot American Summer . In The Ten, they proceed with smug self-satisfaction, almost unable to contain their pride at how clever they are. Their attitude is summed up in Paul Rudd's equally smug performance. He continually delivers his lines, leaving a pause laughter. But the only way this film will get laughs is if the director inserts a laugh track.

And since we're on the subject of Commandments, here are a few the film should have heeded but didn't.

Thou shalt not waste good talent on bad material.

Thou shalt not use pretentious in-limbo sets unless thou art Lars Von Trier and have signed on to the Vows of Chastity.

Thou shalt not use Jessica Alba for anything, and especially not if you already have someone else in a film who's played a Marvel superhero.

Thou shalt not break the fourth wall unless thou art Groucho Marx.

Thou shalt not use ventriloquist dummies.

Thou shalt not make the audience suffer more than the characters.

Honor the memory of Cecil B. DeMille.

Thou shalt not think thyself higher than God...or the audience.

If thou callst thyself a comedy thou must be funny.

If thou makes fun of something, make sure thou knowst it well.

The goof... The Ten (Thinkfilm)

The Ten (rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content including dialogue and nudity, and for language and some drug material) commits the mortal sin of comedy--it's simply not funny. It thinks that just being crude or extreme is enough to merit the label of comedy. Filmmakers Wain and Marino have sitcom instincts but think they are creating something much cleverer. A far better exploration of the Ten Commandments in contemporary life comes from Krzysztof Kieslowski in The Decalogue, a Polish TV mini-series. Although that was not designed as a comedy, it had moments that were far funnier than anything in The Ten, and it actually had something to say as well.

Companion viewing: The Decalogue , Cecil B. De Milles The Ten Commandments, Jesus of Montreal, Life of Brian