Wain and Ten co-writer Ken Marino are just a fraction of the talent originating from ’90s comedy super troupe, “The State.” The show – with its catchy opening theme and renegade humor aesthetic – launched the careers of funny men Michael Ian Black (VH1’s “I Love the ’90s”), Michael Showalter (The Baxter) and Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”).
Fifteen years later, Wain and Marino have forged ahead, taking the Ten Commandments and presenting them to moviegoers in an envelope wickedly pushed across the big screen. Unlike Mel Gibson’s super serious (and to some, biased view) of Christianity in 2004’s The Passion of the Christ, these guys purposely put their offbeat stamp on scenarios that will make audiences think without a heavy-handed message.
For instance, Wain also cast Justin Theroux (Broken English) as a Mexican lothario version of Jesus Christ that has a sensuous affair with a WASPy librarian played by Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page). Like I said, this isn’t your grandma’s traditional Charlton Heston flick.
Helping to keep viewers on track with all the action is Paul Rudd (Knocked Up). As Jeff, he appears alongside the stone tablets, acting as emcee to each rule. Meanwhile, his own life unravels throughout the course of the movie as his relationships with his longtime love (Famke Janssen) and his mistress (Jessica Alba) cause him to break a rule or two himself.
Speaking of religion’s favorite doctrine, here’s a refresher: there’s only one God – and he’s not some TV star. Don’t lie. Don’t “pull a Winona.” Don’t kill. Don’t screw around, especially if you’re married. Stop keeping up with the Joneses. Hands off the neighbor’s wife. Be nice to your mom and dad, bonehead. Make the big guy in the sky your homeboy and hang out with him once a week at his place. And stop taking certain people’s names in vain, it’s tacky!
What makes The Ten truly remarkable is that it was made completely without the help of studio funding. Even wilder is the wealth of big names that attached themselves to the project.
When asked how he managed to swing such an impressive roster of A-listers, Wain jokes, “We offered them something better than money: diamonds. No but seriously, we offered them rubies. Of course I’m kidding. The truth is we offered them platinum.”
Wain has taken the lead on some other noteworthy projects. His 2001 comedy Wet Hot American Summer was another laugh riot. It starred many of his usual cohorts with the addition of comedienne Janeane Garofalo and “SNL’s” Amy Poehler.
Then there was “Stella,” his short-lived television series that was cancelled by Comedy Central after only one season.
Regardless of that minor setback, it’s been said that Wain is the divining rod of “The State’s” trademark sense of humor. That reputation has paid off. At 2007’s Sundance film festival, The Ten was one of the must-see favorites for movie fans and industry types alike (Various cast members of the indie flick Rocket Science reportedly stood in line during the wee hours of the morning just to snag tix to a screening).
The fact of the matter is Wain and Marino (along with other “State” alumni) are fast on the heels of the Frat Pack (Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Will Ferrell). Although Hollywood has long since been tapped into the delight of gross-out humor and beer guzzling, it seems more than willing to party with a new crew every once in a while.
Wain and company surpass genres; they play well to Ivy League humorists, trendy and hip pop-culture mavens, women cruising for good looking lads that make them giggle and suburban stoner types. Add a feminine touch with the presence of member Kerry Kenney-Silver (“Reno 911!”), and you’ve hit pay dirt.
Early buzz among both fans and critics is that all the ribald activity within The Ten is just too sinfully good to resist. Hallelujah!
The Ten releases in select theaters Aug. 3.