Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Cast:
Seth Rogen as Zack
Elizabeth Banks as Miri
Craig Robinson as Delaney
Jason Mewes as Lester
Katie Morgan as Stacey
Ricky Mabe as Barry
Traci Lords as Bubbles
Gerry Bednob as Mr. Surya
Kenny Hotz as Zack II
Brandon Routh as Bobby Long
Anne Wade as Roxanne
Justin Long as Brandon
Tom Savini as Jenkins
Jeff Anderson as Deacon
Tyler Labine as Drunk Customer
Tisha Campbell-Martin as Delaney’s Wife

Directed by Kevin Smith

Summary:
“Zack and Miri Make a Porno” might not be the most groundbreaking comedy, even for Kevin Smith, but seeing his sensibilities paired with a better than usual cast does offer enough new twists to keep it from being “just another Kevin Smith comedy.”

Story:
Best friends since first grade and roommates for a number of years, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are having trouble making ends meet to pay the electric and water bill, forcing them into a desperate solution to make some quick money: make a porno movie! The question is whether the two friends can actually have sex with each other for the first time on camera and still keep what they have.

Analysis:
By now, you might think you know exactly what to except from a Kevin Smith movie, and the thought of him actually making the full-on move to porn is only partially realized by his latest comedy, which feels somewhat different from his last couple (“Clerks II” and “Jersey Girl”) even as it retains many familiar elements. Either way, it’s blatantly obvious that Smith is trying to earn back some of the frathouse cred he lost to Judd Apatow’s crew by doing something more in that direction, while grabbing more than a few members of Apatow’s ensemble.

Smith doesn’t move too far from home base, setting the story in snowy Pittsburgh rather than in Jersey, as he introduces the relationship of two life-long friends who’ve been sharing a house and the burden of unpaid utility bills that eventually leave them without water and power. A trip to their high school reunion gives Zack the idea of making a porno movie and after finding their stars through open auditions and visits to the strip club, they start work on “Swallow My C*ckaccino”, an amateur porn shot after hours in the coffee shop where Zack works.

Enough elements from past Smith movies are present that one can easily surmise this is his work even without the ever-present Jay and Silent Bob. Zack’s job at Starbucks is reminiscent of the principle behind “Clerks,” and the relationship between Zack and Miri is similar to many male-female friendships in his past movies, particularly “Chasing Amy.” Even so, the movie rarely seems as clever or even as edgy as some of Smith’s earlier work, if one can believe that, often going for the most obvious gags. For instance, the friends’ original plan to make a movie called “Star Whores” isn’t that original, because there’s been so many porn takes on Lucas’ epic already. Things like that just makes it feel like Smith is retreading old ground almost to the point of being redundant. Even the idea of making an adult movie inside a coffee shop isn’t quite up to par with some of Smith’s stronger ideas, leading to sparer and less outright funny moments once the amateurs actually start filming.

What saves the movie is that Smith has gotten himself a strong cast to help tell a story that does actually pay off in a big way after hitting a rather drastic lull once they start making the movie. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are convincing enough in every aspect of their characters, even if neither is venturing too far from what they’ve done before. Banks is genuinely likable in her neuroses about having sex with Zack, and their scenes together are genuinely fun, including their attempts to act like bad actors during Zack and Miri’s screen debut, possibly the unsexiest porn scene ever filmed. Craig Robinson offers most of the best laughs as Zack’s co-worker Delaney, the hen-pecked producer of their movie, but again, the character isn’t much of a stretch for him. Justin Long’s bit during Zack and Mori’s high school reunion might be one of the funniest and filthiest scenes in the movie, and even long-time Smith regulars like Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson adjust what we’ve seen them do before to make this seem less like a Kevin Smith movie. Mewes sets aside his Jay character to play “Lester the Molester” a soft spoken sex-crazed actor who becomes the star of the movie while Anderson plays a hockey-playing cameraman. At least bringing them into the movie makes one forget Smith’s inexcusable nod to Apatow’s “40-Year-Old Virgin” early in the movie by having Gerry Bedknob playing another foul-mouthed co-worker.

There certainly seems to be more ad-libbing in the movie than we’ve seen in Smith’s more tightly-scripted work, but maybe that’s because he cast actors who can pull that off like Tisha Campbell-Martin, who shows up late in the movie as Delaney’s much-discussed hellion of a wife. (He isn’t exaggerating.) Smith was also smart bringing in the likes of Traci Lords and Katie Morgan to add a flavor of realism, though they both seem too much like L.A. porn stars to be believable as the type of adult entertainers you might find in the sticks of Pittsburgh.

Smith’s distinctive strengths as a filmmaker still play a factor in this being on in this remaining on the line of his previous film, such as how he finds just the right songs to play in certain moments–Blondie’s “Dreaming” and Pixies are used to great effect in the last act of the movie. Smith knows his audience of fanboys enough to know what in-jokey references will go over well, even if they sometimes feel out of place alongside his attempts at maturing and doing something different.

After Zack and Miri finally do have sex, things start to get somewhat more serious as jealousy and the usual anxieties set in, proving the age-old theory that friends shouldn’t sleep together. Just when you think this means you’re safe from the raunchier Kevin Smith, he tosses in a gag so disgusting it makes the donkey show from “Clerks II” seem tame. It’s so appalling you’ll be thankful it’s a quick shot and one Smith doesn’t dwell upon.

In general, the last half hour dealing with the repercussions of Zack and Miri’s discussion does make up for some of the weaker moments earlier in the movie, and one should definitely stick around for roughly ten minutes of end credits for a very funny epilogue that wraps things up nicely.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re already a fan of Kevin Smith’s work, you’ll probably be all over this movie based on the title alone, and you might still be surprised how warm and touching the movie gets at the end after all his normal sex and potty humor. It might not be Smith’s best movie but it’s by no means his worst either.

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