Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 28, 2011)
My Dad allowed me to start to read Playboy at the age of 12, and I can partially thank 1979’s ”10” for that. We’d seen the flick at the theater in the fall of 1979, and star Bo Derek was slated to appear in the March 1980 issue of Playboy. I used the fact that I’d already seen her naked in the movie, so what harm would come if he bought the mag for me? Granted, that’s loose reasoning, so I’m pretty sure the Old Man would’ve allowed me to start my regular perusal of Playboy anyway, but at least ”10” helped give me the nerve to make such an argument.
Because of this, I maintain a soft spot in my heart for the sex comedy. Don’t expect a ton of plot here. Basically, man (Dudley Moore) has mid-life crisis, man pursues fantasy (Derek), man discovers that reality (Julie Andrews) is better than fantasy - the end! It’s not exactly fertile ground for rich characters and themes.
Essentially, "10" remains true to the Blake Edwards style of comedy: fair amounts of slapstick with occasional bits of semi-sophistication. While the humor in "10" only intermittently amuses, I do appreciate the fact that Edwards knew when not to force a joke. Throughout the film, he's not afraid to let gags develop in the background, where they actually work more effectively.
Too many filmmakers feel they must shove humor down the viewer's throat. They seem to fear that if they don't make the gag frightfully obvious, the audience will miss it. For example, during Animal House, the scene where a handyman tries to remove a dead horse from the dean's office while the dean conducts his business falters because director John Landis too explicitly focused on the handyman and the horse. Had he filmed the scene as though the dean's business was the focus, not the horse, it would have worked more effectively.
Edwards peppers ”10” with segments like that, and it benefits from that approach. Scenes that otherwise might have fallen flat are given life simply because they're presented in such an ordinary way. The camera acts as if nothing special is happening, so the viewer feels like he discovers the humor, not like he's forced to laugh.
While I appreciated such attempts at subtlety, overall I found "10" to be only slightly above average. For one, it's a good 30 minutes too long. The project just seems more drawn it than it should be, and as a result, the story moves along much too slowly. We know that eventually George will somehow meet up with his dream girl, and while anticipation of this event makes the culmination of that search more interesting, it takes so long that the climactic scene lacks much of the excitement that it otherwise could have contained.
In general, the actors do well with their roles. "10" made Moore a star in America, and he handles the responsibilities of the role - both comic and dramatic - with aplomb. Julie Andrews doesn't have a whole lot to do in her role as George's long-time girlfriend, but her presence adds charm and class to the project.
Of course, the biggest impact created from "10" was that it made unknown Bo Derek into a mega-star. Rarely has so much ado been made about so little. Oh, she certainly was an attractive woman, but she lacked any semblance of acting skills. In this film, that's not really a problem, since the role required Derek to do little other than look sexy. She accomplished that task well. When we actually heard her speak and learned a bit about the character toward the end of the film, however, we saw how little talent that beautiful body actually included. I felt that the climactic scene in which George learns the foolishness of his quest lost a lot of its impact because Derek provided so little presence.
Still, ”10” remains a likable comedic fantasy. How much of my enjoyment comes from nostalgia, I can’t say. Whatever the case, it maintains enough life for me to enjoy it to a moderate degree.
Shocking revelation footnote: when I looked at the movie’s IMDB listing, I realized that Nedra Volz – the doddering ancient Mrs. Kissel here – died after Dudley Moore! I would’ve figured she passed within a few years of the film’s release, but she lasted until 2005 and was nearly 100 when she went!