Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5

Comments Comments (0)

Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen were bound to work together. Both the Clerks auteur and the Knocked Up schlub have erected their careers on arrested adolescence and geek chic, and both cloak unexpectedly old-fashioned worldviews behind a veneer of gutter-patter. While the cock n’ weed jokes of Rogen padrone Judd Apatow reinforce family values, Smith’s barrage of bawdy putdowns belies the desire to do a great, soulful romance.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is not that film, but it is Smith’s most affable production in years, a characteristically patchy comedy that nevertheless improves on the retrograde circle jerk of Clerks II simply by swapping the cocoon of View Askew cutesiness for the riskier zones where sex meets emotion. The effects—half sublime, half ruinous—that physical consummation can have on platonic friendship are the basis, told via the story of Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), roommates and lifelong pals whose dead-end jobs and piled-up bills call for desperate measures. The answer to their financial woes comes as Zack, inspired by a high school colleague’s gay-porn career and Miri’s granny panties-clad appearance on YouTube, suggests they start their own erotic epic.

Is the film’s skin-flick setting Smith’s knowing admission that his filmmaking isn’t that different from your average porno-shoot mise-en-scène, or is it a gloved dig at archrival P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights? Either way, Zack and Miri quickly weaves past and present members of the adult industry (wry Traci Lords, bubbly Katie Morgan) into its ensemble of Smith-Apatow regulars, which also includes a nicely fretful turn by Craig Robinson as the couple’s boss-turned-producer, and a typically skeezy one by Jason Mewes as the project’s would-be cocksman. Smith could never aspire to a raunchy version of French Can Can, though the film’s portrait of smut as collaborative art would have worked better with fewer lazy jokes. (It’s nice that Smith can work his George Lucas obsession into the shoot, but is a title like Star Whores really the best he can come up with?)

At the center of an ocean of hit-and-miss gags, however, is the years-in-the-making romp between the title characters, an unexpectedly lovely sequence that, depicting the sudden crystallization of a couple’s feelings for each other in the middle of a makeshift porno set, confirms the director’s mostly unused gift for emotional intensity. If the deed itself is sweet, leave it to Smith to fudge the foreplay and drag the afterglow. After convincingly depicting how their sex scene—the difference between “fucking” and “making love” to one of the starlets, but “boring shit” to the producer—can either bring Zack and Miri together or tear them apart, Smith dodges ensuing tensions by conveniently keeping the characters apart until the predictable finale, resulting in a third-act slackness that no scatological money shots can cover up.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno doesn’t offend as much it disappoints, revealing yet again in Smith a distinctive voice with little to say and, even worse, one willing to sacrifice rarer talents (a feeling for emotive wavelengths) in favor of the ones (pothead in-jokery, hipster hostility) that pad the walls of fanboy cultism. The characters may be able to get off on camera, but viewers hoping for an expansive collision between the sensibilities of director and star will end up with blue balls.

Buy
DVD | Soundtrack
Distributor
The Weinstein Company
Runtime
101 min
Rating
R
Year
2008
Director
Kevin Smith
Screenwriter
Kevin Smith
Cast
Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, Ricky Mabe, Brandon Routh, Gerry Bednob, Justin Long