Naked dudes listening to Roberta Flack…

August 20th, 2007

“The Ten” is the funniest movie you’ve probably never heard of this year.

Directed by “MTV’s The State” alumnus David Wain, “The Ten” is 10 loosely-related stories taking their cues from the 10 Commandments.

It’s got everything a great comedy should have — an all-star cast (Jessica Alba, Adam Brody), absurd, inappropriate humor and Oliver Platt as an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator.

To bad you’ll have to drive to D.C. to catch it on the big screen —or wait until the DVD comes out.

Wain already has one cult movie on his resume, “Wet Hot American Summer.”

There’s no real formula, but a cult movie sometimes flops at the box office before finding an intensely devoted following through DVD, word-of-mouth and cable reruns. They’re easily quotable and hold up on repeated viewings. Although “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the quintessential cult film, it’s not really a question of genre — “Donnie Darko” is as much a cult movie as is “Office Space.”

Will “The Ten” give Wain another?

I doubt it.

Yes, “The Ten” is hysterical. But it lacks the niche appeal that keeps “Wet Hot American Summer” playing on college campuses and at Greenwich Village midnight screenings.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not as Jewish.

Like all good cult movies, you either get “Wet Hot,” or you don’t. Chances are if you get it, you went to camp. Chances are it was a Jewish camp. (I’m willing to place a small wager that Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, who gave the movie one of its few glowing reviews, spent a few summers at Jewish camp).

Any camper who has had his counselors ditch cabin time to make out with their girlfriend will appreciate “Wet Hot.” It’s also a straightforward story — everyone has one last day of camp to find that “special someone.”

Wain, with co-writer and fellow State alumnus Michael Showalter, mined their own Jewish summer camp experiences for more than a few references. But with heroin breaks and refrigerator sex, “Wet Hot” wasn’t exactly “The Chosen.”

“The Ten” is more like a religious-themed episode of “The State,” a movie of 10 sketches.
For “The Ten,” Wain enlisted another State alum, Ken Marino to co-write (really, these movies are just State reunions). Marino’s Catholic, so my thought was that this movie might do for CCD what “Wet Hot” did for Jewish camp.

It’s certainly more of a Christian movie than “Wet Hot” (well, as Christian as any movie can be with Winona Ryder sleeping with a puppet). Jesus shows up in the second story, but he’s to busy seducing women to prepare for the rapture. In the final (and funniest) segment, Oliver (A.D. Miles) skips church every week to hang out naked with other men and listen to Roberta Flack.

It’s not a satire of Christian culture — the Roberta Flack segment comes closest. But that’s not so much about skipping church (Homer Simpson already covered that ground) as it is about naked men.

Yes, it’s funny, but who, exactly, is the audience?

I can’t see people dressing up as “The Ten” characters for festivals or midnight screenings. Maybe I’ll be wrong; it’s just as offbeat and quotable as any good cult movie — but my guess is that it’ll wind up an “Idiocracy” and not an “Office Space.”

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached
at 703-878-8072.

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