I see Esquire’s beloved writer A.J. Jacobs as a stunt man of a certain sort: he picks a crazy project with a beguiling, humorous hook–one of my favorites was when he “outsourced” his life to India, including arguments with his wife and bedtime stories with his kids–and then he “lives it” well beyond reasonable extremes so it becomes satire. Sure, he’ll pick topics that are timely, but to take him too seriously is to miss the point.
He did the same with “The Year of Living Biblically,” the book about his year-long attempt to take the bible “literally.” (I think my favorite part, if I am remembering this correctly, is when his wife gets mad at him and retaliates with the brilliant, passive aggressive act of sitting in all the chairs in the house at the time she is menstruating, or “impure”–see Leviticus 15:20–so then he can’t sit any place that she’s touched. Ha!!)
So now it might become a movie starring Marlon Wayans! While I can’t stomach the likes of Bill Maher in general, never mind when he decides to make fun of all the world’s religions in fare like Religulous, playful takes on religious texts, subjects, and scenarios are a delight if done well (think Saved! with Mandy Moore). And while my fellow Idol Chatter writer Doug Howe seems willing to reserve judgment for now, and give this maybe-movie the benefit of the doubt–”If Wayans’ new project draws people into a greater awareness of the Bible, that’s wonderful,” Howe writes–but then he finishes with a wish that I can’t quite let go: “I’ll keep hoping, though, that someone else (besides Mel) will take up the project of telling the [Bible] story correctly.”
Correctly? What? How is it that Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” is “correct” when all movies, stories, (even the Gospels themselves) are, by nature, interpretations? And isn’t that AJ Jacob’s very point underneath all the humor?
Anyway, I’ll happily go see the film when it comes out. I can’t help chuckling just trying to imagine it on screen. Check out my friend Jana’s short interview with Jacobs about the project, too.