From the people who brought you Stella, Wet Hot American Summer and Reno 911, The Ten is a sketch comedy movie hosted by Paul Rudd and based on those 10 rules Moses found on stone tablets. Even though it was purchased at the Sundance Film Festival, The Ten never got much -- if any -- play on big screens. Which is kind of a shame, but kind of understandable. The film is broken into 10 parts, with Rudd doing monologues in a cavernous black room between each. The format isn't exactly blockbuster material.
Still, the cast is huge and features a handful of comics with cultish appeal: the Stella trio of David Wain, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter; Winona Ryder; Adam Brody; Liev Schreiber.
And a couple of the commandments are genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny, particularly when illustrated in an unexpected light. For "Thou shall not take the Lord's name in vain," Gretchen Mol stars as an uptight librarian who takes a vacation to Mexico and meets a rugged village carpenter named Jes & uacute;s (Paul Theroux), whose name she blurts out in the middle of love-making. Narrated in Spanish with English subtitles, it's full of interesting characters and clever and surprising (if sophomoric) jokes. When the uptight librarian accidentally runs off with a mango at a fruit stand, the fruit vendor mutters in frustration, "I needed that money to buy another mango!" (Maybe you need to see it.)
The other vignettes, quirky and random, are a mixed bag. The sin of coveting thy neighbor's possessions is illustrated by a suburban "keeping up with the Joneses" race to own the most CAT scan machines. Theft is expressed by Winona Ryder's sexual obsession with a purloined ventriloquist's dummy. The "wife" being coveted is a prison inmate's spouse.
Given the hit-and-miss nature of the feature itself -- half the film feels like B material -- the abundant extra and deleted scenes are overkill. The only highlight here is getting to watch seasoned improvisers try out different ways of saying the same thing, until they strike just the right tone. If only the whole film had been as artfully tuned. (Rated R)