November 9, 2008

Movie Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

zackandmiri2_largeKevin Smith must believe in truth in advertising. Well, that or he didn't trust marketing to accurately present his latest movie to the public. Seriously, why else would you call your movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno? I mean, he had to realize this would cause issues come time to advertise the release. What makes it even more amusing is the fact the original poster did not get MPAA approval causing them to use a back up plan they had only joked about: use stick figures. I guess we should be thankful as it resulted in one dang funny poster.

zackandmirimakeaporno2The story is pretty simple. Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have been friends since they were kids, after graduating high school the two moved in together (just as friends). It is now ten years since they graduated and neither one has gotten very far in the world, living in a small apartment where the bills are piling up. Neither making enough money to keep going, the water and electric services are turned off, leaving them to burn their bills for heat.

So, to take care of their money problems they decide to make a porno. Seems like an easy enough way to score some quick coin, right? That is what Zack and Miri think as they rope in their friend Delaney (Craig Robinson) to bankroll he project, find an old classmate who can work a camera, Deacon (Jeff Anderson), and commence filling out their cast, which includes former porn star Traci Lords, current porn star Katie Morgan, and Kevin Smith pal Jason Mewes.

Again, the plot sounds pretty simple, no? In a way it is. However, it also goes to show just how difficult it is to put together any film project, porn or otherwise. They run into difficulties regarding getting a cast, location, script, costumes, funding, and pretty much anything else you can think of. As interesting as the technical issues with their get money quick scheme is, it is not what the film is about, nor is it what makes the movie as successful as it is.

zackandmirimakeaporno1It is not the plot that makes the film work so much as the dialogue that Kevin Smith has given his characters. The screenplay is peppered with all manner of vulgarities, you can probably count on one hand the number of lines that do not include a vulgarity of some sort. To some it may seem to be just a touch gratuitous, but I do not. I am reminded of a line from A Christmas Story, the older Ralphie is speaking of his father when he says: "He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master."

Smith paints the screen in vulgarities in such a way that he may still believe they are shocking. Of course, they aren't. Now, I do not actually believe he still thinks they are shocking, but he brings them together in such a way in such a rapid fire pace as to elevate them beyond mere words, almost to the level of poetry. There are few writers and/or directors that can paint the screen in profanity and raise it above the shock level to a more artistic level. He takes the F-bombs (and its multitude variations) and inject them liberally into a story that has a high emotional quotient. Yes, at the core of Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a big heart.

zackandmirimakeaporno6As our intrepid group of porn entrepreneurs try to deal with the hardships of making the movie (some details which have reportedly been mined from Smith's own experiences from making his debut film Clerks), Zack and Miri are forced to confront the genuine feelings that have developed between the two over the years. You know how everyone says sex complicates things, that was never more true than it is right here. The act of sex proves to be a driving factor in dragging these two into the next stage of their lives. Again, not complicated, not unforeseen, but in the hand of Kevin Smith, supremely moving and heartfelt. Of course, it is not only about Smith, but the interesting chemistry that Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks have with each other.

Despite the quality of their work, this movie is more than the two leads. The entire supporting cast turn in great work. Jason Mewes was good in his role as a dimwitted cast member and it is always good to see Jeff Anderson even if he is playing a variation on his Clerks character, not to mention his involvement in a sequence that has to be seen to be believed. Although, I have to say that Craig Robinson is the brightest supporting cast member, stealing many scenes, the man is flat out funny.

It is funny, I had thought that the Judd Apatow camp was the heir apparent to the Farrelly Brothers' brand of vulgar comedy, but seeing Smith work with Apatow regular Seth Rogen, it seems more likely that Judd and company were taking at least a few cues from Smith's early works. Whatever the case may be, Smith has not lost a step in the wake of new competition and it is entertaining to see him working with Rogen.

Bottomline. This is very funny movie, I am not sure I have laughed this hard at any other point this year. If you want to laugh, this is the movie for you.

Recommended.

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