Look beyond the dudular charms of Seth Rogen and his ilk, and you’ll find another pack of up-and-coming comedians in slightly better shape. Some, like writer-director David Wain, come out of TV’s much-mourned The State—about which you only must know that it ended too soon. Others, like Paul Rudd and the loping Ken Marino, can do drama just as ably; witness last spring’s Diggers. The humor is less shouty, more passive, always in quote marks. It’s the self-deprecation of the office cubicle, the car pool. It may be more lasting than all the Ferrell and Wilson gags combined.
The Ten (as in, commandments), an omnibus project of skits, could have been a stronger opening salvo for the troupe’s revolution. Naturally, some of these minimovies are sharper than others: Adam Brody survives a freak parachute plunge to become a half-buried but potent celebrity; Marino surgically sews scissors into a patient on a “goof.” (Neither has much to do with the commandment in question.) But a few of the performers aren’t quite clued in: What is strident Winona Ryder doing here, except accruing more indie cred? Monty Python appears to have been a huge influence on the gang. If so, they lack a central Graham Chapman figure. Likely, they’re all fighting for dominance, and it shows, not always unpleasurably.