On paper, Commandments is an intriguing idea: Seth (Aidan Quinn), a regular New Yorker who’s also a modern-day Job (yeah, right, what New Yorker isn’t, except this guy’s wife vanishes into the sea, he loses his job, his house is destroyed, etc.), decides that in defiance of God’s evidently useless rules, he will systematically try to break every one of the Ten Commandments. Which he does — along the way upending the lives of his pleasant lawyer sister-in-law Rachel (Courteney Cox) and her unpleasant sharky husband, Harry (Anthony LaPaglia). But what might have made an elegant and even trenchant Atlantic Monthly short story becomes a strained, slight movie in this feature debut by writer-director Daniel Taplitz. Quinn is a nice choice — he’s got the difficult task of making Seth (he was a son of Adam, remember?) moral and immoral at the same time, and he manages well. LaPaglia and Cox do what little they can with their sketchily defined characters. But, clearly with the best of intentions, Taplitz tries to shoehorn so much into one story (moral lessons, humor, biblical analogies, romance, free-floating cuteness) that the punchline of the sermon is missing. Is it okay to covet thy neighbor’s wife (as it appears to be here)? Do people who break commandments get rewarded by God if they’ve got really, really good reasons for doing so? Is Seth really a spiritual test case or just a lovable oddball? God knows, but we don’t. C

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