First, the good news: For those fans among you who, like me, have been fully dreading the shit-acular movie its trailer portends, this is your cue to exhale—The Ten is actually pretty good.
Keeping his record largely clean of the faux pas that have recently marred the good names of his regular collaborators (see: Reno 911!: Miami, The Baxter, etc.), former Stella-/States-man David Wain directs and co-writes (along with beloved former State-mate Ken "I Wanna Dip My Balls in It!" Marino) a sketch-comedic parody of The Decalogue—an anthology of 10 absurdist vignettes of varying quality, each relating to a respective Biblical commandment. Somehow (producer Paul Rudd's Rolodex, mayhaps?) Wain's managed to attach a cast of surprising star-power to this flimsy premise, with Rudd, Jessica Alba, Winona Ryder, Adam Brody, Gretchen Mol, Oliver Platt, Famke Janssen, Justin Theroux, and Liev Schreiber each taking their turn to prove that they're in on the joke.
And what of the jokes? Well unfortunately, The Ten isn't quite the unqualified success of Wain's tour-de-force debut Wet Hot American Summer: The direction is awkward at best, with each segment bumpered by totally superfluous (and largely unfunny), sound-staged narration by Rudd—seemingly thrown in to pad out the film's run-time. Besides that, roughly half of the segments fall close to flat—not entirely unlike what you'd expect from a typical 90-minute sketch comedy show, but a bit of a bummer when you're paying $8. Still, for every lame musical number or prison rape bit, you've got one with Oliver Platt playing a terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator hired to act as surrogate father to two black teenagers—not all that bad a trade-off, as far as I'm concerned. And as with all of the best of Wain & Co.'s works, the bone-headed setups and lame-duck punch lines aren't really the point—they're just the absurd canvas upon which to paint a lot of small, subtle, funny-as-fuck strokes. And The Ten's got just enough of those to keep it afloat.