Dennis suggests The Ten (in Comedy). This sketch-based anthology film, with each sketch (very loosely) inspired by each of the ten commandments, comes to us from the minds of the utterly hilarious and unique comedy minds behind ‘The State’, ‘Stella’, and Wet Hot American Summer (which you should all rent right now, except for ‘The State’ because, since the universe hates me, that seminal sketch comedy show has never been released on DVD*). A brief rundown of each (with corresponding rating of how funny it is/how much you’re going to hell for watching it):
Thou shalt worship no God before me– a skydiving accident leads to sudden, deity-like television celebrity for Adam Brody (**1/2: not the strongest start, mainly because I cannot, for the life of me, remember why Adam Brody is, or should be, famous enough to be in it)
Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain– absolute comedy gold with the gorgeous Gretchen Mol as a timid librarian who finds her heart and her, um, thingy awakened on a vacation to Mexico, where she meets a studly handyman named…Jesus (***1/2: great jokes everywhere, with the whole segment being narrated a la Y Tu Mama Tambien only adding to the serious giggles)
Thou shalt not kill– Doctor Ken Marino has a penchant for practical jokes, and pays a stiff price (***:Marino’s smarmy deadpan, the funny trial scene non-sequitors, and the central conceit of one particular word…good one)
Honor they mother and thy father– a loving mom [Kerri Kenney] breaks a shocking truth to her sons, and comes up with an odd solution to their confusion (***1/2: utterly bananas and utterly brilliant, with Oliver Platt stealing the show)
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods– two suburban dads [Liev Schreiber and Joe LoTruglio] play a bizarre contest of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (****: my favorite, with a brilliantly loopy central conceit and great performances)
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife– the doctor from the third vignette finds himself the object of a tug-of-war while serving time (***1/2: one of those polarizing, tightrope concepts that The State was so adept at, this one gets extra credit for its daring, its sustained deadpan, and just for being wonderfully sure to offend. Plus, Rob Corddry.)
Thou shalt not steal -the fiancee of the skydiver and the local newsman who covered his accident are now married, but her attentions wander to an unlikely source on the wedding night (*** Winona Ryder, of all people, is actually pretty funny in this one [and certainly very game] and this one gets points for the dramatic/comic, Scorcese-look ending)
Thou shalt not bear false witness (**: the weakest of the bunch, this cartoon about a lying rhinoceros [and some disturbing animated sex and violence] squeaks by due to the voice talents of the great H. Jon Benjamin [from Dr. Katz and Home Movies]- I’m particularly fond of his reading of the line ‘Do not have sex with the wiener dogs!’)
Remember the sabbath and keep it holy -married man [A.D. Miles], who’s wed to the librarian from the first story, skips church and gradually instigates an unexpected, and ultimately hilarious movement [which finally includes almost every male character in the movie] (***:this one picks up steam as its premise is sustained and expanded upon; the end song isn’t all that it could be though).
And, holding the whole film together is the great Paul Rudd (a guy I will seek out in anything) applying his nimble, impovisational-seeming delivery to the role of the guy tasked with introducing each of the ten segments, but whose attention quickly gets sidetracked with hilarious conflicts with his wife (the sparkling Famke Janssen), mistress (Jessica Alba), and the mess he’s made of his life. A unique, off center comedy, with something to delight, puzzle, and offend everyone.
*Since this review was written, it has been confirmed that ‘The State’ will finally be released on July 14th of this year. About-frickin’-time, but, still, very welcome news. Look for it on Videoport’s shelves and, hey, since that date is 2 days after my wedding to the lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer…I smell wedding present…