Holy Moses! More absurd than enlightening, this gleefully rude but unfortunately hit-and-miss religious satire on the Ten Commandments stands no chance of becoming a Sunday school staple.
Director David Wain rounds up some of his buddies from the 1990s comedy troupe The State to poke fun at the do's and don'ts of the Ten Commandments. No need to fall on your knees and pray for forgiveness if you've forgotten whose house you should not covet. Wain breaks down the Ten Commandments in episodic fashion, and confers the task of introducing each outlandish morality tale upon his Wet Hot American Summer star Paul Rudd. The silliness is firmly established when Wain examines the consequences of worshipping a false idol. In this case, it's Adam Brody, who enjoys fame and fortune after he accidentally jumps from a plane sans parachute. Not that he can reap the benefits of sudden stardomhe's stuck in the ground and can't be moved. But Brody's predictament isn't necessarily the oddest. A 35-year-old virgin (Gretchen Mol) goes weak at the knees when she's hit on by none other than Jesus Christ (Justin Theroux). Liev Schreiber engages in a game of oneupmanship with his neighbor when both start snapping their town's supply of CAT scan machines. Life imitates art when Winona Ryder learns the hard way that stealing causes her nothing but pain and shame. Rudd gets in on the fun, as the lucky devil juggles married life with Famke Janssen with his booty calls with Jessica Alba. But Wain inflicts the most humiliation on his co-writer, Ken Marino, whose arrogant surgeon learns the hard way playing pranks on patients will only led to life in prison and a nightly "ass-raping." As you can tell, Wain's not really into making subtle statements about the set of rules we observeintentionally or otherwisein our everyday lives.
By finally making good use of her sticky fingers, Winona Ryder reveals she's ready to laugh at her past transgressions. Not that she goes off on a shoplifting spree. No, she purloins a ventriloquist's puppet in the name of love. Nothing in The Ten beats the hilarious, though unsettling, sight of a game Ryder getting all freaky with her wooden object of affection. She hasn't let her hair down like this before, so good for her. But she's got some competition from Gretchen Mol, whose screams of "Jesus" during hot and sweaty sex are let out with intense religious fervor. The award for Harried Husband of the Year goes to Paul Rudd, Knocked Up's henpecked spouse. But he plays the role of an estranged hubby with such biting wit that he makes marital disharmony a joy to behold. Still, it's hard to see why Famke Janssen and Jessica Albaboth wasted, by the waywould fight over this dweeb. A hysterically deadpan Liev Schreiber spoofs his oh-so-serious forensics expert from this past season's CSI, Oliver Platt does a killer Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, and Rob Corddry gives brutal prison sex a kind face. The Ten isn't exactly the full-fledged State reunion fans are waiting for, especially as Thomas Lennon and Michael Ian Black barely make their presence felt. But Kerri Kenny is relentlessly cheerful as a sitcom-ish mom who fails to convince her two black sons that their real dad is the Governator. And an oily Ken Marino quickly loses his smirk once behind bars, though he takes his punishment like a real man.
David Wain can sleep well at night knowing that The Ten won't cost him his place in Heaven. While there's no denying that the Bible-inspired buffoonery on display is irreverent at best, Wain and cohort Marino do not take a sledgehammer to the stone tablets. Instead, they seem more interested in how the Ten Commandments play a role in our lives, regardless of our religious beliefs. That said, whatever point they try to make is lost amid the sexual shenanigans. Not that it takes a theologian to deduce that murder is bad, stealing is wrong, and buying up the town's supply of CAT scan machines is asking for trouble. By the very nature of its structure, The Ten can't help but unfold as a series of interconnected sketches that sadly lack a punchline. But it's so goofy and hilariously borderline offense that it's hard not to be caught up in all the silliness. Indeed, Wain's preoccupation with sex provokes more nervous laughs than groans of disgust. And The Ten offers some side-splitting parodies of family sitcoms, prison dramas, crime procedure shows and preachy faith-based dramas. There's even a warning against skipping church on Sundaysand letting it all hang out, literally, with your buddiesthat would turn Homer Simpson into Ned Flanders. Wain orchestrates all this madness in the anything-goes manic style of Airplane! or Scary Movie. The Ten is by no means a minor miracle of the comedy kind, but if you accept it for what it is rather than what it tries to be, than it's certainly worth skipping evening services to see.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.