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Zack and Miri Make a Porno   B-

The Weinstein Company

Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Cast: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Traci Lords, Jeff Anderson, Katie Morgan, Ricky Mabe.

Review by Rob Vaux

Kevin Smith may never grow up and from where I sit, that's perfectly OK. He basically has one trick in his cinematic arsenal, but after 13 years, he's gotten really good at it. His latest effort indulges in the usual raunchy wit that made his name, delivered with impeccable timing and concealing an underlying core of sweet romanticism. None of it comes as a surprise and it hits a few bumps on the way, but longtime fans shouldn't be bothered in the least.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno scores further points by jettisoning the baggage of the "Askewniverse" which marked most of Smith's oeuvre until now. Jay and Silent Bob are nowhere to be seen (though actor Jason Mewes is in full attendance), and their initially brilliant, increasingly threadbare antics have thankfully called in sick. This frees Smith from the undue self-indulgence that marks his weakest efforts, allowing him to make the most of a very funny concept here. Lifelong platonic friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) hit a dead end when their bills become more than they can handle. Inspired by a gay porn star (Justin Long, who owns this thing) at their class reunion, they decide to make an adult film of their own. Images of Miri's underwear are already an Internet sensation (don't ask), and with the help of a few local wannabes, they don't think they'll have any trouble putting it all together. Porn doesn't actually need to be good, after all. It just needs to be explicit, and desperate times such as these have a way of throwing prudishness to the winds.

With that as a basis, Smith essentially rephrases the key dilemma of When Harry Met Sally. Zack and Miri are buddies and roommates, but sex has never entered into the equation for them. Now, faced with the prospect of doing the deed in order to keep the lights on, will their relationship be able to survive? The issue is rarely in any doubt (despite the film's protestations to the contrary), and Smith tends to lay the saccharine qualities on a little thick. That drags the wafer-thin plot down, as the arc becomes all too obvious all too soon. Rogen makes for good damage control, however. His appeal has always stemmed from his vulnerability as much as his sense of humor, and he deploys it effectively here in the role of another amiable slacker with a gallant heart. Banks has less to work with, being relegated to straight-(wo)man duties as is sadly typical in comedies of this ilk. But she boasts fierce comic timing of her own, along with good chemistry with Rogen to compensate for her comparative lack of juicy material.

Because of them, the will-they-or-won't they subplot works just well enough to let Smith do what he does best: namely, riff on pop culture with some of the funniest and dirtiest dialogue this side of George Carlin. Though his principle target is the adult-film industry (natch), he has a ball with simple character-based musings as well. Conversations between his central couple and the various wacky misfits they recruit exhibit all the razor wit and foul language that his fans expect, while still retaining a slice-of-life plausibility that Smith's less disciplined films seem to lack. The laugh count quickly rises to critical mass, leaving any other concerns for a less frivolous movie. The title serves as fair warning for anyone who likes their comedy in the PG range. For the rest of us, Zack and Miri makes for a reliably amusing dirty joke: no less worthy for its essentially disposable nature.

Review published 10.31.2008.

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