Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Film review by: Witney Seibold

 

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            I have heard many interviews with Kevin Smith, and he has admitted, time and again, that he knows nothing about directing. While he is a film buff; he loved the films of Richard Linklater growing up, and is one of the more open admirers of the “Star Wars” movies, he never attended film school, and has never read any books on film directing. Smith has made several good films in his career, and one great film (“Chasing Amy”), but with his newest trifle, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” it’s become abundantly clear that Smith, while certainly honing his craft, is still not as good a director as he is a writer. If Smith were to hire a director like Linklater – or perhaps David Gordon Green, who recently did the stoner comedy “Pineapple Express,” – his penchant for snappy dialogue, cute hipster slackerdom, and earnestly foulmouthed romantic frustration, could raise itself into the realms of a Gen-X Preston Sturges. Or at least high-end John Hughes.

 

            “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is about Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks)… uh… making a porno. Zack and Miri have been best friends since childhood, and now live as barely-employed slobby roommates. Their utilities are being shut off one-by-one, and they blow rent money on goofy videos and unusual sex toys. These two speak very openly about their sexual habits, fart in front of one another, and share the kind of closeness that only ancient friends can.

 

            At their 10-year high school reunion, Zack and Miri come to the sad realization that all their classmates are more successful than they are. And, to make matters worse, Miri’s teen crush Bobby Long (Brandon Routh, who played Superman) turns out to be dating a gay porn star (a scene-stealing Justin Long). This inspires Zack to propose that they pay their bills by making an adult film, All based on the idea that anyone wants to watch old classmates and friends having sex, whether or not its sexy. I don’t know about you, but I’d probably buy an adult video if it featured someone I personally knew. Will they have sex with each other? Well, I guess that’s part of it.

 

            Zack and Miri assemble a motley crew of Kevin Smith film regulars and newbies to make their magnum opus “Star Whores.” Jeff Anderson plays the cameraman. Jason Mewes plays the horny pragmatic nudist, and is hysterical. Craig Robinson seems a little out-of-place in this film, but does fine work as the would-be producer (he sacrifices the money he was going to use on a big-screen TV). Real-life porn star Katie Morgan is the only main character to have a nude scene, and Traci Lords plays the experienced stripper who is very game helping out these kids and their wacky little dream. Kenny Holtz exists in this film, I think, only to be repeatedly sodomized.

 

            As the big scene between Zack and Miri approaches, they both begin to feel a mixture of apprehension, and unexpected exhilaration. Could it be that they actually have had stronger feelings for each other than they previously realized? Could having sex, even on camera for money, bring them closer than they are prepare to deal with, but perhaps desperately want to be?

 

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            There are some very funny moments in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” and Smith is sure to include some of his trademark grossout gags; I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to reveal that someone is coated with human feces in the course of the film. Smith’s witty banter is scaled back a bit in this film, but his views of romance are in tact: he feels people can be frank, open, honest, even vulgar in their everyday conversations, but they still have trouble opening up about their feelings.

 

            But, as I said, the film’s direction leaves much to be desired. Smith is content to let his actors, who are admittedly funny and talented, steal whatever scenes or lines they like, when a bit of character direction would have been more appropriate. His camera moves only where it needs to, which makes for something economical, but a bit bland.

 

            Another problem with “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is that Smith seems to think that it’s more shocking than it is. Zack and Miri are open and vulgar and talk a lot about masturbating and the kind of porn they like. There’s not much to suggest that making a porn together would be horrifying or daring for either of them. And hence, the audience can’t feel that the subject matter is shocking. The nudity is plentiful, and, as I said, there’s poo, but it all seems strangely within-the-lines.  Like Smith thought mere mention of sex would be enough to rile up people. Dare I say it, there needs to be an amount of wit to your penis jokes.

 

            But these are only complaints that have “Zack and Miri” landing short of Smith’s “Chasing Amy,” and do not necessarily distract from its place as a funny and entertaining romcom. It’s a genial and enjoyable film.

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Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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