Movie Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

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Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen in Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Photo: Weinstein Co.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno has the Kevin Smith vibe to it, but its conceit almost seems to get in the way of itself as this over-the-top sex comedy ramps up only to see Smith overcompensate the more risqué humor with a sticky sweet love story that gets quite sappy. If someone ever told me this film would be goofy amateur porn meets The Notebook I would have slapped them in the face because they were obviously crazy, but the damned thing almost reaches that level. Quite simply, there are two sides to this coin and potentially a jagged third as Smith’s potty mouth humor, meets overt sweetness with doses of goofy porn thrown in for good measure. It’s a comedy stew and it works when it’s not overdoing itself, but can occasionally get annoying with its schmaltzy storyline.

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are lifelong friends and have come to live with one another for the past 10 years but are having trouble with the bills. To be frank, they are having so much trouble they are about to get evicted. At a loss for what to do they come to the conclusion that an amateur porn will earn them the money they need as they hope to take advantage of Miri’s suddenly elevated online profile once a bootleg video of her wearing “granny panties” shows up on YouTube making her an overnight sensation.

The plot is simple and Smith goes into very little detail in terms of time frames and monetary particulars, but it isn’t really needed considering the idea behind this flick wasn’t as much to tell a standard narrative as much as it was to get to tell a raucous story about two friends making a porno. For better or worse, the plot couldn’t be any more straight forward.

For the most part Zack and Miri is about Zack and Miri and their budding romance and obvious interest in one another. Friendship turns to passion, turns to jealousy, turns to scorn is the motto here and it is all very vanilla, but the making of the porn is where Smith throws a wrench in the works. Even though there are plenty of comedic moments inside the porn making (including a poop scene that will have many cringing) it starts to throw the film off balance since it is so much different than everything else going on around it. I know it is the central piece to the story, but I almost feel like more of it should have happened off camera, but I don’t know how Zack and Miri Make a Porno Off Camera While Falling in Love would have been received.

On top of the porn problem there is the fact that Miri is so obviously in love with Zack it is almost painful to watch. She bats her eyes, smiles like a 14-year-old and simply flutters around following their sex scene in the porno to the point you want to either beat her over the head and tell her to cool it or beat him over the head and tell him to wake up. It’s a minor complaint, but Smith never lets up with the sweet to the point it becomes sour.

However, Smith has managed to get the best performance out of Seth Rogen yet. As Zack, Rogen finally seems comfortable in his character’s skin and not merely reading off a bunch of lines. But outshining even Rogen is Craig Robinson as Delaney, a guy who works with Zack at a Starbucks-like coffee shop and comes aboard the porn as a “producer”. Robinson has a way of reading his lines that adds a certain charisma to the performance as well as a smile that could win an election. With all due respect to Robinson I hope he remains as the current #1 comedy counter-punch and doesn’t get washed away in a failed sitcom or as a failed lead in a feature film a la fellow “The Office” star Rainn Wilson in The Rocker.

Despite my quibbles, Zack and Miri has a lot of laughs, but I always have a hard time being too hard on Smith because I love his dialogue. Many complain his dialogue is too crass and that it is filled with four-letter words, but I guarantee you if you put me in any of the situations found in this film the word “fuck” will become quite necessary more than once. On top of that, this is how a lot of people talk, especially if you condensed three weeks of their lives down to two hours and threatened them with eviction.

GRADE: C+