Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Dir: Kevin Smith
My fiancée was furious after we walked out of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin Smith’s latest comedy about a couple of friends who decide to make said movie when they can no longer pay their utility bills. “There was nothing redeeming about that film,” she said. “All it did was reach for the lowest common denominator. All you have to say is ‘Poop’ or ‘Balls’ and people laugh.” I tried to answer, but I was too busy chuckling that she said, “Poop” and “Balls.”
We have seen this before: a Smith movie about a band of losers drenched in profanity and inane, puerile jokes. We have also seen Seth Rogen play a fat dipshit getting with girls way out of his league. In fact, his Zack could be interchangeable with any of the characters he’s recently portrayed. But, you don’t go into a Kevin Smith film expected gravitas and tragedy. You expect bad dick and fart jokes and a chance to see Jason Mewes act like an asshole. If that is your goal, then Zack and Miri will not disappoint.
Zack and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are lifelong buddies and close-to-broke roommates who have never had sex. After attending a 10-year high school reunion and learning the football star (Brandon Routh) now makes gay porn (Justin Long is priceless as his lover), the duo decide making an adult film is the only way to avoid eviction. So they write the script for “Star Whores,” hire a motley crew of actors and set off to make the movie. Of course, there is a snag.
It doesn’t take William Goldman to predict where this one goes. Despite years of platonic friendship, Zack and Miri love one another. At the heart of the profane script is a sweet love story about two people too afraid to show their true feelings. While Zack tries to plan scenarios in the film that prevent Miri from having sex with anyone else in the cast, her fears of the impending consummation become palatable. When the big scene finally arrives, its direction surprises both the participants and the rest of the cast.
Drawing deep characters has never been one of Smith’s strengths: sure, Dante and Randal from Clerks are now an indelible part of pop culture, but there is a similar milieu in which all of Smith’s beautiful losers populate. They like to swear, they can’t hold down anything but menial jobs and they just want to be loved. Though slacker chic more or less vanished with the ’90s, Smith speaks to a large populace in our failing economy, the twenty and thirtysomethings living on the fringe, paycheck to paycheck.
But is that Smith’s prime demographic? While porn is still somewhat of a taboo, simulated porn is considered mainstream. The sex scenes here are graphic and without a doubt most teenage boys will sustain an erection for most of the film’s running time. But what about the older crowd? The sex is anything but stimulating. It’s comical, it’s gross and, in one instance, sweet. It is that scene that will appeal to anyone out of high school.
So, back to the fiancée. Is Zack and Miri Make a Porno a bad film? It is impossible to hold it to the same standard as a deep drama. Smith sets out to make a stupid, confectionery piece and he succeeds; but he does not exceed that expectation. That is why a comedy of the same vein such as South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut would receive a better review from me. It transcends the genre. Within the rubric of gross-out comedy, Zack and Miri does nothing to raise the bar. It just sits on it