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The Ten: Absurd, But Not Absurdly Funny

I think Paul Rudd is cute and funny. I think the concept of making a movie using ten vaguely intersecting comedic skits is potentially great and funny. So why, then, is The Ten just not that funny?


The movie has Paul Rudd playing Jeff, a kind of surreal host on a sparsely furnished "stage," of sorts, introducing each of the film's stories based on the Ten Commandments. Between each segment we get an update on the travails of Jeff's love life (the end of his rocky marriage, followed by his relationship with the bouncy young Liz (Jessica Alba), etc.). The stories themselves are moderately interesting. For the commandment about stealing we do indeed find Winona Ryder playing a young woman who steals a ventriloquist dummy with whom she's fallen in love. The piece featuring Adam Brody (based on the commandment about worshiping false gods) is a pretty funny commentary on the phenomena of American celebrity. Ten stories starts to feel like an awful lot, however, and when the mildly amusing musical finale comes, it arrives in the form of silly relief. For more on my perplexed "eh" reaction to this movie, read more

Writer/director David Wain and a bunch of his buddies from "The State" (many of whom make up the cast of "Reno: 911" as well as the movie Wet Hot American Summer) came up with this movie and roped in some big-time names (Alba, Brody, Ryder) to join them for the ride. I've always liked and respected "The State" because they did comedy the way they wanted to do comedy: strangely, and full of darkness and absurdity. Their skits were often awkward to watch — sometimes so awkward they weren't funny — but it always struck me that they did things on their own terms, as opposed to, say, "Saturday Night Live" — which can be called a lot of things but "edgy" or "weird-funny" are not among those things.


Yet watching The Ten I started to wonder if "The State" served a purpose during a time in my life that has since passed. In fact, in a recent interview with David Wain, he says he wanted the movie to be exactly the kind of movie he liked to watch as a college kid and alas, I am no college kid.

The Ten seems like one long inside joke that I am not a part of. It's not that I didn't understand the humor, it's that I got why it should be funny and it just wasn't. And like I found with "The State" from time to time, the absurdity often overwhelms everything else so you're stuck there sitting in awkward or stupefied silence rather than laughing out loud hilariously. If this is okay with you, and if you are also a fan of "The State," "Reno" or Wet Hot American Summer, then you'll probably kinda enjoy the movie like I did. Otherwise, don't bother because I shalt not lie: it will probably be an exercise in frustration.


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