Review: 'The Ten' simply isn’t very funny

Inspired, no doubt, by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog” series, “The Ten” presents a series of wildly uneven vignettes purportedly inspired, however tenuously, by the Ten Commandments. As one might expect from director David Wain, whose past successes include the pitch-perfect “Wet Hot American Summer” and MTV’s “The State,” it is a comedy, and an unapologetically blasphemous one at that: Those seeking a serious meditation on Biblical law will find themselves disappointed long before Winona Ryder decides to seduce a ventriloquist’s dummy. Others will be disappointed for different reasons.

For one thing, “The Ten” simply isn’t very funny, despite its impressive pedigree and a uniformly talented cast featuring the likes of Paul Rudd, Rob Corddry, Oliver Platt and Famke Janssen. Curiously, Rudd, whose wry deadpan proved indispensable in Judd Apatow comedies like “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” is used here mostly as a straight man, the host in charge of introducing stories that are only loosely connected and drift along, often without any real destination.

There are flashes of inspired comedy. The opening segment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”) tells the bittersweet tale of Stephen (Adam Brody), who goes skydiving but neglects to wear his parachute; he winds up neck-deep in the ground and completely paralyzed, useless to his grieving fiancée, Kelly (Ryder). All is not lost, though — Stephen soon becomes a cult hero, even a sitcom star, before his “Behind the Music”-style meltdown.

Stephen’s tale has a smart, cynical edge that surfaces every now and again in “The Ten,” but too much of the film is dedicated to one-note sketches that miss their marks. One involves a surgeon (Ken Marino) with a sneaky habit of deliberately leaving his instruments inside his patients (“Thou shall not kill”); he spends the rest of the film in prison, where he is repeatedly raped by fellow inmates.

It is an irritating, aggressively tone-deaf sequence that revels in its own bad taste, and perhaps that was enough to amuse Wain and Marino, who share screenwriting credits. As with many of the leaden jokes in “The Ten,” though, the laughs are lost on the audience.

The Ten **

Starring Paul Rudd, Famke Janssen, Gretchen Mol, Jessica Alba, Winona Ryder, Rob Corddry

Written by Ken Marino, David Wain

Directed by David Wain

Rated R

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

Just Posted

Pharmacist Hank Chen is known for providing personalized service at Charlie’s Pharmacy in the Fillmore.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Left: A Walgreens at 300 Gough St. is among San Francisco stores closing.
Walgreens closures open the door for San Francisco’s neighborhood pharmacies

‘I think you’ll see more independents start to pop up’

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

Four young politicos were elected to city government on the Peninsula in 2020. From left: Redwood City Councilmember Michael Smith; South San Francisco Councilmember James Coleman; Redwood City Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica; and East Palo Alto Councilmember Antonio Lopez.<ins> (Examiner illustration/Courtesy photos)</ins>
Progressive politicians rise to power on the Peninsula. Will redistricting reverse the trend?

‘There’s this wave of young people really trying to shake things up’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Most Read