Bookmark and Share

Kevin Smith has attempted to break free from the viewaskewniverse once more with his new comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno. We all remember his first try, the underrated Jersey Girl that died before it even had a chance due to the Jennifer Lopez/Ben Affleck debacle, that culminated in him going back to the well for the amazing sequel Clerks 2. With the new film, Smith has mixed the sentimentality of Jersey Girl with the vulgarity of his other movies, creating a hybrid that brings some big laughs along with a slogging pace at times. The script is a tad disjointed, broken into very distinct acts, finishing with a very self-reflexive moment as the characters try to find an ending for their film at the same time Smith puts the pieces together for his own. However, while the parts may not gel as smoothly as one would wish, they are all held together by the two lead roles doing what’s need in order to make ends meet. Whatever problems there may be with structure, there are none at all as far as dialogue and humor. This thing is definitely a Kevin Smith movie; there can be no mistaking that fact.

It really does take place in four sections, the first of which becomes the prologue to the story, an introduction to our leads and their friends as both try to prepare for their ten-year high school reunion. We learn their relationship history, their ticks and idiosyncrasies, as well as their trust in one another. This part sets up the premise of the rest of the movie, leading these two onto a road towards pornography for cash. Part two involves the process of getting a low-budget porno off the ground with casting, financing, costume design, and script writing. I don’t want to ruin the eventual epiphany onto what the subject matter should be, (they want a dirty version of an existing movie, and if you know your Kevin Smith, you might be able to figure it out), but the rehearsals are fantastic. The third act is where it all starts to come undone as filming begins, personalities clash, and feelings get trampled on. It all leads into the climatic moment when our leads face the decision we all know will crop up sooner or later—that question of whether a guy and a girl can ever truly be just best friends. Credit Smith for getting it all to that point, even if the transitions are abrupt between the three quarters, but chide him a little for then tacking on the conclusion like an afterthought. Part four works, don’t get me wrong, I just wish it could have been handled a bit smoother than with a “3 months later” caption.

The film definitely hinges on the ability of Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks to carry it all through. This is a feat considering both are brand new in the Smith universe. Usually we have the stalwarts playing leads with viewaskew virgins rounding out the supporting cast to possibly be expanded later on. Here, though, Rogen and Banks take the steering wheel and chug along as two friends that have been together since school. They have a real chemistry, mocking each other and lacing every retort with sarcasm, these two are buddies in a situation built on trust and love. Banks is very charismatic and does show-up the rest of the cast at times with her ability to convey emotion so well. No disrespect to Rogen, but the guy isn’t Marlon Brando. He knows his place and does it very well. I will say he surprised me a bit with some range, but if you like him or hate him, Seth is being Seth here. And that works, because these two need to seem comfortable with each other; they both act like they’ve been friends forever and that goes a long way in making it all seem believable.

Of course, no matter how good the leads are, a Smith film relies heavily on the supporting cast. Rules are rules and they are not broken here. “The Office’s” Craig Robinson steals many scenes from his counterparts with that same deadpan self-righteous black man, “is he serious or not” rhetoric as in the television show. His delivery is perfect at every turn and when he dances at a cast party … pure gold. As for the rest, I really enjoyed Justin Long as a gay porn star, so out in the open that when he tries to be “straight” it just becomes hilarious. Thinking that being macho is speaking slow and in a deep voice, his back and forth with Brandon Routh (who kept reminding me of Dan Futterman from The Birdcage in his mannerisms, not sure if that is good or bad, but it did distract me for some reason) is enjoyable and when he recognizes “Granny Panties” at the reunion, it is pure jubilance. And not to bad mouth the pornstars, but Traci Lords and Katie Morgan are definitely not very good acting-wise, yet they do add something to the film, infusing it with some of the preconceptions of the industry that one may have going into the film.

Mention is deserved for a couple more small parts. Tyler Labine kills as a drunk Bean-N-Gone coffee customer barging in while the troupe is filming a sex scene. His oblivious reactions to everything and need to talk about the Steelers game is hilarious. The facial responses of the group watching this kid walk in on them makes it even more priceless as their horror juxtaposed with his total blank emotional state works great. Also, what Smith film is complete without the obligatory cameos of his friends? Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson make appearances and both are natural and vintage … them.

So while it is not a startling rebirth for the man that helped usher in the era of the indie comedy, it is definitely a good step forward into new territory not bogged down with an existing history as his viewaskew stories are. The only really horrible thing about the movie for me was the atrocious font used in the opening credits—it made me cringe. Otherwise, this is a very funny film that will offend some sensibilities while opening the world to even more one-liners and unforgettable set-pieces. I hope the movie does well, because if Smith gets his creative juices flowing, we can only end up with creative stuff. If bad press and disappointed fanboys keep making him go back to the well (which did work in spades for Clerks 2) he is bound to not be able to keep it up.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno 8/10

Bookmark and Share

photography:
[1] Seth Rogen is Zack and Elizabeth Banks is Miri in Kevin Smith’s ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. Photo by: Darren Michaels © 2008 TWC
[2] Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks star in Kevin Smith’s ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. Photo by: Darren Michaels © 2008 TWC

Advertisements