The worst thing you can say about a comedy is that it's not funny, because sense of humor is so utterly subjective. So make this your litmus test for David Wain and Ken Marino's collection of sketches loosely inspired by the Ten Commandments: How funny do you find the word "vagina." Is it funnier or less funny in Spanish "va-hee-na?"
The film opens on a soundstage dominated by a huge pair of tablets bearing the commandments. Genial Jeff Reigert (Paul Rudd) introduces each sketch while sharing his marital woes: Married to Gretchen (Famke Janssen), he's sleeping with sexy-but-stupid Liz Anne Blazer (Jessica Alba). Reigert's dilemma eventually becomes the subject of the penultimate sketch, "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery," but that's getting ahead of things. In "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me," a moron (Adam Brody) goes parachuting without his parachute and winds up grotesquely imbedded in the ground; to move him would kill him. An unscrupulous agent (Ron Silver) turns him into a media "god" who drives his long-suffering fiancee, Kelly, (Winona Ryder) into the arms of smarmy TV personality Louis LaFonda (Mather Zickle). In "Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord's Name in Vain," repressed librarian Gloria Jennings (Gretchen Mol) is vacationing in Mexico when she has a torrid affair with Jesus (Justin Theroux) Jesus Christ. Asinine doctor Glenn Richie (Marino) leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient "for a goof" in "Thou Shalt Not Kill," and can't believe it when he's convicted of murder; in "Thou Shalt Not Covet They Neighbor's Wife," he's enmeshed in a brutal prison sex triangle with cellmate Big Buster (Michael Mulheren) and new inmate Duane (Rob Corddry). In "Thou Shalt Honor Thy Parents," two young black men (Cedric Sanders, Arlen Escarpeta) try to persuade their very white mom (Kerri Kenney-Silver) to reveal their father's identity; the answer involves a chubby Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator (Oliver Platt). Suburban neighbors (Joe Lo Truglio, Liev Schreiber) destroy their families with their absurd one-upmanship in "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors' Goods." Kelly, honeymooning with Louis La Fonda, becomes obsessed with a potty-mouthed ventriloquist's dummy's wood in "Thou Shalt Not Steal." In "Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness," junkies relate the tale of the Lyin' Rhino, a crude, rude animated prevaricator. And in "Thou Shalt Honor the Sabbath," Gloria's post-Jesus husband (A.D. Mills) stops attending church in favor of Sundays at home, hanging out naked with his pals; the segment segues into a musical finale that unites the entire cast.
Marino founded the sketch comedy troupe The State, and Wain directed and cowrote the camp-movie spoof WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001); the cast includes veterans of Reno 911! , The State, Upright Citizens Brigade, Stella and Saturday Night Live. Everyone involved seems to have been operating from the presumption that gross and blasphemous equals hilarious. Would that it did. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh