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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Zack and Miri Make a Porno

MOVIE REVIEWS

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008)

Starring Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, Katie Morgan, Traci Lords, Ricky Mabe, Jennifer Schwalbach, Anne Wade, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tom Savini, Gerry Bednob, Jim Norton, Lena Cheney, Justin Long and Brandon Routh.

Screenplay by Kevin Smith.

Directed by Kevin Smith.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company.  101 minutes.  Rated R.

Everyday Beautiful

VenueKings.com

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Fourteen years into his career, here is what we know about Kevin Smith.  He is a terrific screenwriter, able to craft natural, funny and (relatively) realistic dialogue.  A Smith movie sounds like no one else's.  He has an original and intriguing style. 

He is also a pretty bad filmmaker.  He has very little visual style, does nothing to harness in his actors when they are running off course, has a tendency to hire non-professional "names" in significant roles and does not have the discipline to cut scenes when his screenwriter (which is himself) gets self-indulgent.  Sadly this happens way too much.  

Also, in the years since his nearly perfect debut film Clerks, he has become an old softy, taking most of his wonderfully snarky and cynical setups and then spending the last third of his movies ladling on sappy platitudes about true love and family values - though, granted, in his own offbeat way.  (The faux-poignant assessment of true love and romance in this case is made supposedly-hip and irreverent by being pronounced by a naked and extremely foul-mouthed wannabe porn star played by Smith regular Jason Mewes.  Take that, squares!) 

I mean, I'm glad that Smith has found love and happiness in family life and wants to share that in his art, but his natural state of fanboy horndog-ness slacker humor strains against his current neurotic need to make everything he writes have a traditional love-conquers-all happy ending.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (which has been advertised in some places as merely Zack and Miri - due to cowardice, I suppose) is the best film which Smith has made in several years, and yet it never quite lives up to its potential, its extremely good lead performances (particularly by the game, funny and beautiful Elizabeth Banks) and its wonderfully evocative title.

Banks and Seth Rogen - Hollywood's chubby nerd du jour (sorry Jack Black) play two best friends in Pittsburgh, PA.  A decade out of high school, they are still going nowhere, living together in a filthy (but surprisingly big) apartment and scraping together every penny they can get for the rent and utilities.

At their high school reunion, Miri decides to throw herself at a classmate (Brandon Routh, aka Superman) she had always loved - not knowing he has since become a gay porn star.  Zack befriends the guy's lover and learns a bit about the adult movie game.

When their water and electricity are turned off, Zack and Miri become desperate enough to decide to make a porn film themselves - just for the money. 

They get a friend to loan them some cash, buy a video camera, rent a slimy flat, build sets and start hiring actors to co-star in the video.  (If they can afford to do all this, why didn't they just pay their utility bills?  Oh yeah, because then there would be no story.)

Their group is made up of a bunch of misfits including some of Smith's regular stars (Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes) and a couple of former porn queens (Katie Morgan and Traci Lords, who is looking really used up.)

Unfortunately, the making the porno section is not nearly as interesting as the lead-up.  It is just a bunch of easy jokes (oh my, you mean porn stars are bad actors and are given horrible dialogue) and some gratuitous gross-outs (an anal sight gag goes much too far.)

The only problem with Zack and Miri's big plan is, after a life of platonic friendship, will their relationship survive having sex - with the added pressure of it being on camera?

Let's face it, Banks is way too cute to be a desperate, unhappily-single, barely-employed loser, even with the odd Farrah Fawcett-kitsch hairdo she's saddled with through large parts of this film.  She's just the latest of several women who are way too hot for Rogen who have fallen in love with him on screen in the last few years.  (See also: Katherine Heigl, Amber Heard and even Banks herself - they previewed Zack and Miri with a comic sex scene in The 40 Year-Old Virgin.)

However, if you buy into the fact that she has no other guys in her orbit than her flatmate, the two have a charming rapport.  Everyone, but everyone, knows that the two of them are meant for each other - except for the two of them.

After all the sophomoric humor, the two leads' actual love scene is handled with great tact, restraint and muted passion, a somewhat obvious but still valid show of the difference between sex and love. 

Of course, it's not easy enough to have them just realize they are in love, we are forced to sit through a long section where they rotely show jealousy, have fights and won't admit what they feel.  The whole will-they-or-won't-they get together bit feels predictable, clichéd and unnecessary.  It almost totally derails the whole movie - which was already juggling the charming actors and often clever writing with a too sleazy and slight storyline and poor production values. 

The fact that the movie essentially survives its cheesy tendencies and bad habits (and there are a lot of them) is a testament to good old fashioned star power.  Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks make Zack and Miri Make a Porno seem much better than it actually is.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: November 17, 2008.

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Copyright ©2008   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: November 17, 2008.

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