Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Director
Cast
, , , , ,
Rated
R
Runtime
101 min.
Release Date
10/31/2008
zack and miri make a porno

Kevin Smith’s writing contains bawdy humor and casual dialogue, risqué jokes and occasionally whirling sexualized vocabulary. Oddly sympathetic characters populate his stories, redeemed only by the writer-director’s sentimentalist heart. Often whatever base activities that progress his films are acquitted by his romantic finale. This has become his signature. But Zack and Miri Make a Porno exposes Smith’s formula to its most naked structure, leaving his outline blatant and overexposed. We slowly realize that he’s been making the same movie over and over again: Sex comedies with surprising acumen and feeling.

The charm of his approach in previous efforts rested in his originality, his ability to break new ground, to discuss the ribald with a unique sense of smarts: Chasing Amy explored homosexuality and sexual politics with descriptions of graphic sex acts, yet a welcomed romance resided at its center. The Clerks movies address necrophilia, self-fellatio, and donkey-lovin’ each with a wry taste for the absurd. The examples are many.

Now trying to outdo himself, his latest film has turned into a procession of increasingly disgusting gross-out humor. There’s plenty of genitalia, including a scene to rivaling Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘s exposure, and one scene involving the mysterious release of a bubble. Staged homemade porno sex scenes are plenty, never trying to be sexy but present nonetheless. Scatological humor rears its brown head in a scene that’s sure to provoke audible yucks. And there’s not a single conversation that doesn’t end up a discussion about “fucking.” Smith’s apologist fans will no doubt eat it up.

The story orbits around, as you might expect, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), two roommates who’ve been best friends since high school, who decide to make a porno. Working crappy jobs, their bills are behind, and when the utilities are shut off, it becomes apparent that America’s favorite get-rich-quick scheme is pornography. Why not make one themselves? They gather friends and hire actors, among them Smith regular Jason Mewes as an actor, Craig Robinson as a producer, clerk Jeff Anderson as the cameraman, former underage porn actress Traci Lords (you can guess what she does), and not underage porn actress Katie Morgan (ditto).

Though longtime friends, Zack and Miri dance around their own sex scene, having never driven their relationship down the physical road. Obvious emotional complications ensue when it’s their turn and suddenly—whoops!—they make love instead of “fucking.” Have they loved each other all this time? And what about their porno’s later scenes—how will Zack and Miri, finally realizing their longtime love for one another, feel about random sex on camera with a stranger now? It’s all a none-too-subtle metaphor for how sex complicates friendship. We get it, Mr. Smith.

Typical Star Wars allusions and detailed obscure film references make for welcomed filler. It’s the only time you’ll hear any film enthusiastically recall the climax of Sleeping with the Enemy. Zack’s hockey team is called the Monroeville Zombies, a reference to the George A. Romero undead classic Dawn of the Dead (there’s even a brief guest appearance by that film’s makeup artist and costar Tom Savini). And the title of their proposed porno is Star Whores. Although, all of Smith’s clever-but-natural wordsmithing and knowledge of pop-culture can’t hide what is ultimately a love letter to his own personal obsession for pornography, something he’s discussed openly on his trifecta of college tour DVD-releases entitled An Evening with Kevin Smith.

Progressing over the years, Smith’s flair for vulgarities knows no bounds. And while normally I’m not one to promote censorship, believing free speech to include foul mouths (something I wholly embrace), I found myself getting tired of Smith’s use of the F-word. Does it have to be used on every possible occasion? Verbs, nouns, adjectives—whenever there’s an opportunity to slip it in (no pun intended), Smith does so. The result is tiresome.

A longtime fan, but by no means an apologist, I’ve noticed Smith’s writing decline over his last few films, whereas his direction has improved significantly. The charm of his first few titles was their decorative use of brainy dialogue about grotesque subjects; directed without an eye for the cinematic, those films were nothing to look at, but their topics were involving and their streams of conversation impressive. With Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks II, and now Zack and Miri Make a Porno, those Smithian traits that used to vindicate my love for comic book shops and other nerdisms have floated away, precipitating sexual fixation instead.

Smith doesn’t care about being sexy with this film, just purveying raunch like any other dirty comedy of the last few years. Of course, Smith’s understanding of love breaks through to give us characters we want to at last get together—Rogen and Banks make affable leads, and their chemistry is believable. However endearing their relationship, however satisfying their eventual embrace, the movie obviously cares more about shocking its audience. What else can be determined when Smith’s audience exits post-credits not raving about his expert writing, but rather “the poo scene.”

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