ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

Zack and Miri Make a Porno Movie Review

R, 101 min, 2008

Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Stars: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson

Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a rollicking, raucous comedy, filthy, profane, mostly hilarious and finally downright heartwarming. To those who think Smith, the crown prince of all things scatalogical and shocking, has lost his nerve, I say he sets you up for it from the beginning.

As the film opens, we meet Zack (Seth Rogen, having another great year after David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express, which he co-wrote), a slightly overweight doofus who works at Bean-N-Gone, a small Starbucks-esque coffee store near the mall in the Pittsburgh semi-suburb of Monroeville. His co-worker is Delaney (Craig Robinson, familiar from TV’s The Office) and his boss is the (rightly) paranoid Hindi Mr. Surya (Gary Bednob – I did not make up that guy’s name – who you may recall from another film with Rogen, Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year Old Virgin). Zack’s roommate is Miri (Elizabeth Banks), a foul-mouthed gal who has been platonic pals with Zack since the first grade and who, we gather, has an open-door policy when it comes to potential relationships – she will pretty much do whatever she feels like the guy wants on the first date, and then is somewhat stunned when they don’t call her the next day, or really ever again for that matter. These two lifelong friends live together, split the rent and utilities, and live on poverty row, renting a two bedroom apartment that is barely standing.

One night, Zack and Miri attend their 10th High School Reunion where they hope to get even with the jocks and cheerleaders and just generally mean-spirited former peers who once called Miri “Stinky Linky” (after her last name), and who generally ignored Zack during his pothead days. Miri finds her illusions shattered when a guy who treated her badly way back when, Bobby Long (Brandon Routh, in a major step-up from Superman Returns), turns out to be hiding something which pretty much stops her plan for revenge-sex in its tracks. Let’s just say, it involves a hilarious and filthy-mouthed (and minded) creation named Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long; ironic, I know, that he has the same last name in reality as the other character, and that the other actor has his character’s first name in reality) who pretty much brings down the house.

Zack and Miri’s lives take an unexpected turn when two disgruntled teen brat customers decide to videotape Miri changing and post it on YouTube, making them something of an overnight viral sensation. When they can’t pay their bills, the plot finally kicks in, and they decide to make a porn film to cash in on their success and attempt to make ends meet. They enlist the former cameraman for their high school’s varsity away games, Deacon (Jeff Anderson ofClerks fame); a sweet, helium-voiced stripper named Stacey (actual porn actress Katie Morgan); a rather effeminate youngster named Barry (Ricky Mabe); a uniquely talented amateur porn actor named Lester (Jason Mewes, the first half of Jay and Silent Bob), whose full name has to be heard to be believed; and a bizarrely talented “performance artist” named Bubbles (Traci Lords, another refugee from the world of porn). With some funds from Delaney, they’re off and away.

Their plan takes some hilarious and unexpected twists and turns, though it’s mostly just an excuse for a lot of dirty, occasionally disgusting, often foul-mouthed humor. What makes this film unique, however, is the relationship of the title characters. Of course, if they’re making a porno with such a small cast, they themselves will have to act in it, but they are strictly platonic, or have been, thus far and what will having sex do to the relationship?

Kevin Smith, who wrote and directed, has here made a filthy, raunchy comedy treading some of the same rough territory of Chasing Amy (1997), with much of the heart and all-but-syrupy sweetness still in-tact; this may indeed be his best film since then.

Seth Rogen is the kind of big, sweet, dumb guy with a dirty mouth and an indefinable endearing quality that you can actually find growing on you. Elizabeth Banks proves that she was the right person to play Miri – a potentially wonderful girlfriend, sure, but also a pal with whom you can share disgusting jokes and familiarity; remarkably, this comes in the same season that she so adepty played the First Lady, Laura Bush, in Oliver Stone’s W. They are surrounded by a terrific supporting cast, completely game and utterly capable of delivering Smith’s dialogue with aplomb.

Smith, as usual, peppers his film with an astonishing and never-ending range of profanity, as well as pop culture references which are knowing and often hilarious. This has been a very good year for stunningly profane, goofy, “dumb” comedy that transcends itself; this film joins the ranks of Pineapple Express, Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder and the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading. Ultimately, this is a very, very funny and oddly (and almost inexplicably) endearing comedy that will live a great long while.

Note: The flywheels at the MPAA rated this NC-17 because of the pure shock of the material (this isn’t even grazing the surface of the issue over the title), but re-rated it R on appeal. The DVD contains over an hour and a half of deleted/extended scenes and another 20 minutes or so of gag reels. Watch through the ending credits for a very funny sequence about halfway through. Don’t even get me started on the controversy over the title…

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