10 Items or Less (2006) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for language
Running Time: 82 min.

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Paz Vega, Jonah Hill, Bobby Cannavale, Anne Dudek, Jim Parsons, Danny DeVito (cameo), Rhea Perlman (cameo)
Director: Brad Silberling
Screenplay: Brad SIlberling
Review published February 23, 2007

10 Items or Less is the "express lane" of film; it looks like a quick and easy proposition, but once you're in line, it almost invariably takes just as long for getting so little.

It's a bit of a vanity piece for esteemed thespian Morgan Freeman (Lucky Number Slevin, Edison Force), who more or less plays himself in this independent film that he stars in and also serves as executive producer. For such a small project, there is a decent amount of talent involved, starting with the script and direction by Brad Silberling, coming off of much larger productions in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and the critically acclaimed Moonlight Mile. Despite the credentials, Silberling's pet project is about as insubstantial a film as I've seen in recent memory, though not without its modest enjoyment.

The basic premise of the film is that Freeman (his character isn't named directly in the film) heads out to a supermarket in order to observe the manager to study the day-to-day activities for an upcoming project he is working on. Although a popular actor, he hasn't been working much for the last four years, and this independent film is just something to keep busy with, maybe turning into something and maybe not. While in the market, he befriends a disgruntled Spanish woman (Vega, Spanglish) working the express lane, on the day she is to interview for secretarial job and (hopefully) get out of the vocational and emotional rut she is in. Since Freeman doesn't have a ride home, he tags along for a ride in exchange, coaching her on what to expect from the interview and how to properly present herself.

From the finished product, I'm uncertain how much time and effort really went into making the film, and what the real impetus was, other than perhaps an exploration into independent productions. The tone is lackadaisical, leaning heavily toward wholly improvised scenes that are explored at length before moving to the next. The run time is a short 82 minutes, although that itself is padded out with a 10-minute end credits sequence that is injected with several outtakes and alternate scenes that didn't make the final cut.

As cute and amusing as 10 Items or Less occasionally can be, there's not much here to recommend to anyone who isn't a huge admirer of Morgan Freeman.  He has an affability and grace that makes him interesting to watch, but Silberling's film is the equivalent of a funny 20-minute short that is dragged out to a full-length feature through music interludes and montages involving Paz Vega getting dressed, washing her car, or Freeman learning about Target (the department store). It's more of a curious distraction than a full-fledged film. 

10 Items or Less is a likeable film with a handful of delightful moments, but at the same time, why does it waste so much time, ours and theirs, in an effort that has no theme, plot or purpose?  This is about a close a call as I can make in terms of whether or not to recommend it; I liked certain moments (Freeman critiquing a book-on-tape reading is priceless), and yet, the long stretches of blatant padding make it difficult to imagine having to sit through it all again. It probably plays better on independent movie channels on cable TV than it does at the theater, which is where I'd wait for it to pop up.  In the end, I'm going to have to put it in the "not recommended" cart for most viewers due to the fact that this is just a rough draft to what could have been a good film with more effort.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo