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Zack and Miri Make A Porno Good Dirty Fun

Zack and Miri Make A Porno
Written and directed by Kevin Smith
The Weinstein Company, 2008

When Kevin Smith unleashed his debut Clerks in 1994, audiences were hearing some frank talk that most of them had probably never heard in a movie theatre before.  What was unique about the dialogue was that it was closer to how people really talk than most movies really ever capture, in fact I think it was dead on when you consider the demographic.  If you ask Smith, he’ll tell you that he doesn’t even consider it dirty.  It’s just the way people talk.

Smith hasn’t quite been able to turn this formula into a big hit.  It took Judd Apatow, himself a chronic television failure despite critical raves, to make the “filthy-sweet” a bankable commodity with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up.  Smith has tried before to get the big hit: Jersey Girl was supposed to be his PG-13 slam-dunk with Ben Affleck, Affleck’s then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, and fresh-off LOTR Liv Tyler bringing the crowds in.  But Smith has either been snake-bitten by pigeon-holing his films for his select fans (Mallrats, Clerks II, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), religious controversy (Dogma), or as in the case of Jersey Girl, just being too bland and having the hard-luck of having Affleck and Lopez come fresh off Gigli, a movie then being given one of those “worst of all-time” tags.  Now, however, Smith has a market.

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have been longtime friends.  They know way too much about each other and aren’t afraid to talk on any subject about themselves, with little to no embarassment.  They aren’t highly ambitious, working at a coffee shop and just making enough to pay bills.  But some frivolous purchases and lack of sense has them unable to pay for rent or utilities, and just like that, they’re riding out the days in an unheated apartment with no water or power, just in time to go to a high school reunion!

At the reunion, Miri looks to find high school crush Bobby Long (Brandon Routh) and hopes to seduce him.  Meanwhile, Zack, after a strange little “revenge” episode that I’m surprised wasn’t cut out, gets in a conversation with a guy named Brandon (Justin Long), who did not graduate with him.  Brandon is a bit outspoken about being gay and in gay porn, and he points out that he’s with his boyfriend, who happens to be Bobby.  The episode leads to a bout of drinking, where Zack and Miri can’t appear to get any lower, and then Zack gets the idea to actually make a porno.  After all, earlier in the film a couple of dweebs took voyeur video of Miri in her “Granny panties,” a sensation on the internet, apparently.

Zack gets initial money from his co-worker Delaney (Craig Robinson), who was planning on buying a flat-screen TV with it, but decides to go along with Zack’s crazy idea.  Then he enlists a cameraman, Deacon (Clerks‘ Jeff Anderson).  That leaves the casting: Barry (Ricky Mabe), Bubbles (former porn star Traci Lords), bubbly blonde Stacey (another porn legend, Katie Morgan), and what Smith film could go without his male muse…as in Jason Mewes, as Lester.  Also in the film, Zack and Miri themselves, which presents a problem because they’ve never taken their relationship to this level before, or ever gotten close to it.

The original idea is to make Star Whores, a porno spoof of Star Wars.  In a plot development I can only blame on George Lucas, or Smith’s too-high esteem of the Lucas universe, this idea is nixed when the warehouse-cum-studio Zack and the gang rent out is demolished along with all of their equipment.  This would have made the movie a hell of a lot more entertaining had they skewered Star Wars throughout.  As is, we get a few good jabs, and then it’s time for a new idea: use the security equipment in the coffee house, and use the coffee house as the stage for the porno.  Things go pretty swimmingly, and Zack and Miri start seeing each other in ways they never thought of before, and start falling love before their “big scene,” which will likely complicate things.

This is pure Kevin Smith fun, with that rapid-fire, can’t-believe-they-said-that dialogue.  Seth Rogen is his usual self, the script was quite clearly meant for him as has been reported in interviews, and Rogen plays this guy to perfection.  Banks gets in some funny lines herself, being game to launch into some filthy discussion.  I love Craig Robinson (stay out of trouble, pal), who has made a nice career out of being the calm, collected, tell-it-like-it-is character.  And the rest of the porno cast is fun, too, especially Mewes, who is likely to just make you laugh any time he appears onscreen.

There are some noticeable flaws, but I think Smith wears these like a badge of honor on his flicks.  Besides, comedies can get away with flaws more easily.  We all ask to laugh, and laugh you will.

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