Zack and Miri Make a Porno – Review

From Donkey Shows to Money Shots

Writer/Director: Kevin Smith
Notable Cast: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Craig Robinson, Jeff Anderson

Many would classify Kevin Smith as a one-trick pony. Like an overgrown child who loves talking about Star Wars or anything comic related, this is a guy who, with his first comedy film Clerks, got an NC-17 rating from the MPAA strictly because of explicit dialogue. No violence or nudity—just words. But that’s his niche: (very) foul-mouthed comedies for the adolescent crowd.

There will be those that see Seth Rogen attached to Zack and Miri and immediately assume that Smith wanted to be Judd Apatow (or ride on his coattails). Truth is, Smith was making R-rated comedies and bringing the raunchy humor to theaters ten years before Apatow made a king’s ransom at the box office, writing and directing a double dose of hundred million dollar grossers, and becoming a hit-generating machine as a producer for many others. Both directors come from different schools of thought when it comes to comedy, but one similarity they share is the dynamics of character relationships. Only it was Apatow who somehow discovered the secret formula for making R-rated comedies appealing for mainstream audiences.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith’s newest, sure-to-be-labeled offensive comedy is a love story and a sex farce all in one. The title is direct, basically laying it all out for us, and you’ll want to bite your tongue and grin with its connotation, but don’t think the material is strictly porno related. It’s a comedy, and the humor is very much what we’ve come to expect from Smith.

For friends Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) their relationship seems almost implausible. Having known each other since the first grade, the two live together in a low-end Pittsburgh flat yet, surprisingly, have never hooked up in the romantic sense. Surely Zack could see that Miri was becoming an attractive woman over the course of twenty years. Together they share the same screw-what-others-may-think mentality and don’t care about success. They have simple goals. For a high school reunion, Zack is out to get a quickie in the bathroom from a former classmate, while Miri is a word-stumbling embarrassment as she propositions her long held high school crush, Bobby Long (Brandon Routh), who isn’t the kind of guy she thinks he is.

This scene and many others bombard you with plenty of potty humor and words not fit for public dissemination. You can’t go two lines without someone saying the F-word, the A-word, or any combination of words and phrases not fit to print. The dialogue alone will make some reconsider the stupidity of it all, just like Joel Siegel did when he left a screening of Clerks II after the first thirty minutes proclaiming it the worst movie he’d ever seen. Those that stay will indulge on the silliness of the comedy’s premise, because it’s funny and is relative with today’s economic circumstances.

Well, kind of.

Zack and Miri live paycheck to paycheck. With overdue rent and no running water, the two need a quick way to make money. Zack comes up with the porno idea, but the real discussion is if they can go all the way on camera.

Time is spent on deciding what would be the best porno to make. Zack suggests a parody of some well-known movie; it would ultimately be titled “Star Whores.” To make the feature Zack assembles a crew: Delaney (Craig Robinson), his coffee bar co-worker, is the producer and casting director; Lester (Jason Mewes), an actor who can be camera-ready like that (snaps fingers); Bubbles (porn hall-of-famer Traci Lords), who can do tricks; Barry (Ricky Mabe), the youthful, um, actor of the production; Deacon (Jeff Anderson), who works the camera having covered high school football games, and Stacey (porn starlet Katie Morgan).

Directing the actors and the different sexual positions, Zack is overcome with exhilaration. Even when the production suffers a setback, Zack is eager to work on the script, coming up with the next scene and writing the dialogue. It’s a feeling of accomplishment—doing something for a change. However, when the time comes for Zack and Miri to do their big scene, which is non-rehearsed beforehand, it goes wrong. It was only supposed to be sex, but it leads to them to reassess their relationship.

Kevin Smith’s comedies have succeeded on the chemistry of the actors. First it was the platonic relationships of Dante and Randal and Jay and Silent Bob. Then the romantic relationships in Chasing Amy and Clerks II had a grounded sense about them, feeling like something that wasn’t scripted for television. Zack and Miri feels sit-comish because of the chubby guy hooking up with a gorgeous blond. But to hear them talk, it’s not all about looks. Banks can be every bit as crude as Rogen with the vulgarities. Add Craig Robinson’s scene-stealing exchanges, with his deadpan humor, and the rest of the nutty ensemble, and you have some ultra-fast comedy that may require repeat viewings for jokes missed.

Ignoring the sit-com nature of the relationship, listen to the dialogue. It’s what makes Smith identifiable—his calling card. The dialogue in Zack and Miri is smart and edgy and timely. And with Smith’s most talented cast to date, it makes for one of the funniest, dirtiest and offensive movies of this year.

FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):

Tags: , , , , , , ,