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.
has been advertised in some places as merely Zack and Miri Make a PornoZack 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
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
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.
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.
get a friend to loan them some cash, buy a video camera, rent a slimy flat,
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.)
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.)
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.