Movie Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno
By Brandon Scott
October 24, 2008
Zack and Miri Make a Porno stars the now ubiquitous Seth Rogen as Zack and the ever-developing Elizabeth Banks as Miri. Written and directed by Kevin Smith, this is a blend of lowest common denominator raunch ala Clerks-era Smith, with the romantic comedy sentimentality found in most Judd Apatow productions. The comparison is certainly apt, with Smith directing a cast that includes his Clerks stars Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes, as well as the perennial Apatow favorites Rogen, Banks, and Craig Robinson.
The title of the film is pretty straightforward, telling you exactly what the movie is about. Zack and Miri do indeed make a porno. The only catch here is the potential pratfalls of filming a porno with the longtime friendship that Zack and Miri have. When the roommates and lifelong friends lose power and see the water cut off in their apartment, they decide to turn to the world of porn to make money to pay the bills. Rounding up some friends to assist them and holding auditions to fill out their filming cast, including a few real porn stars, production is set in motion for the centerpiece of the movie's plot.
I must mention here the level of filth that accompanies this film. There are some very funny moments, but this is a hard R, having narrowly avoided an NC-17 rating by the MPAA. There is graphic sexuality and nudity, especially in - but not limited to - the porn scenes and continuous foul-mouthed language throughout. There is also a defecation scene during the film, among a few other scenes where toilets are involved. It is literally "potty humor" and if that is not your thing, it is advised to stay away.
Props to the cast should start with Banks, as this is most certainly a star-making turn for her. She shows off her comedic chops, which have been on display in other films like The 40 Year-Old Virgin, but also her fragility when presenting Miri's feelings that develop for Zack. Her post-coital moment alone after filming her porn scene reveals a woman who feels transformed by the experience.
Craig Robinson continues to see his roles expand in films lately, and for good reason. He sparkles, acting as a producer of the porn and a man conflicted with his marriage. Whether commenting on issues of race (upset with being asked to work on "Black Friday" the biggest shopping day of the year, not a "racial" holiday) or wanting to see some new breasts (different words used) other than his wife's after the last 20 years, he brings what is becoming his trademark style of delivery resulting in him stealing nearly every scene he is in. He's a definite crack up.
I admit to not knowing that Smith had such a sentimental side to him, though this isn't necessarily a positive revelation. Maybe this is all a cue from the success that he currently sees Apatow having. Smith keeps the attempted gags coming and he handles the directing well when it comes to the inevitable touching moments in the movie. This is either a sign of his maturing as a director or an attempt to correct some of his past failures. Whatever the reasons, this is not the indie-level Smith film we've come to expect from him. Though the rating and extreme filth will likely hurt its audience to some degree in theaters, this will definitely be a hit on video when all the youngsters can rent it more freely.
Unfortunately, the film ends up being a little too formulaic in the end to give it stellar results. The plot is highly predictable and the lack of an engaging lead in Rogen hurts it. His Zack, though likable, is just not that interesting to watch or listen to on the whole, and Rogen's performances are becoming very repetitive. What was a fresh revelation in Knocked Up has worn thin in a short time. He is more suited to smaller roles as his pudgy, grizzly bear appearance and acid-tongued persona can only go so far. His role in Superbad or even his cameo-type stint in Step Brothers seem to fit him better. He is a talented writer who can be funny, but as a lead actor he is not particularly exciting or believable and it usually results in overkill.
A few other notes to be aware of: look out for Justin Long as a gay porn star in a few scene-stealing moments in the film. Yeah, I said both he and Robinson are scene-stealers, though they share no scenes together. (That could have been fun!) The Apple spokesman serves up more than a few delights in limited time. Also, stick around for an additional scene at the end of the film right when the credits roll. It's a denouement of sorts. This adds to the overall package of what is an at times funny, yet uneven film as a whole. 2.5 out of 4 stars.