starring Paul Rudd, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Jessica Alba
screenplay by Ken Marino & David Wain
directed by David Wain
by Ian Pugh Along with ninjas and pirates, Jesus is a popular target of hipster irony because the idea of throwing such a deadly-serious figurehead into a light of silliness, informality, and kitsch seems automatically hilarious--and it may have been, once upon a time, before Jesus bobbleheads, Jesus magic eight-balls, and Dogma's Buddy Christ drove it right into the ground. The joke is so easy, in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised if the notion of Jesus as a prosthetic-leg salesman occurred to David Wain before anything else about his anthology The Ten--even the concept itself: ten sketches revolving around the Ten Commandments with vaguely intertwining scenarios and characters. The structure is crafted with such petulance as to suggest that Wain and co-writer Ken Marino read a short review of Kieslowski's Dekalog and flat-out refused to give the matter any further thought--a dismissive attitude that comes naturally to the hipster culture and permeates the entirety of this anthology. "Thou shall not have any other gods before Me" is transformed into the parable of a man who becomes a media darling after an unsuccessful parachute jump leaves him partially, permanently embedded in the ground. Although it can be seen as an equation of mass media obsession with full-blown idolatry, the contextual relation is so self-consciously tenuous--the descriptor "god" is thrown at us as a screaming afterthought--that we're eventually mocked for watching it. (It's a contempt that also fuels a lot of hoary jokes about programming VCRs, inattentive doctors who play golf, and prison rape.) "Did you actually think we were going to make a comedy about the Ten Commandments?" the filmmakers ask rhetorically. (Jesus appears in "Thou shall not use the Lord's name in vain," presumably because His human girlfriend (Gretchen Mol) cries out His name in mid-coitus--which, again, seems somewhat connected but in context is ultimately not.) Narrative convention itself becomes a target, shot at with lazier and mustier arrows: the unreliable narrator of the stories (Paul Rudd) is chastised by his wife (Famke Janssen) for spending too much time narrating; a fireworks show with romantic timing is revealed to be the work of a nearby, hitherto-unseen child; and characters burst into musical numbers for no apparent reason. It's all non-directionally hostile in a way that reminds of Wain's last film, Wet Hot American Summer, which itself rests in such an uncomfortable grey zone between nostalgia and disdain that it becomes an abusive spouse to the '80s teensploitation genre. With these companion pieces of cinematic hate, Wain's point appears to be that movies have gone as far as they can go, so all that remains is formula and cliché; and you're a fool for attempting or expecting anything new.