(Dir. Kevin Smith, 2008)
Seems like the world of movie comedy has passed Kevin Smith by these days.
From the many Judd Apatow approved projects to the likes of Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Adam Sandler dominating the raunchy guy genre is there really any place or need any more for Jay and Silent Bob?
Well, thankfully they’ve been left behind (though Jason Mewes does show up) for Smith’s new chance to play catch-up and show he can still make with the crude and rude gross-out gags. Highjacking major Apatow-player Seth Rogen and basking in the low budget roughness in which he created his best work, Smith gives us Rogen and Elizabeth Banks (also a Apatow veteran) as broke best friend room mates who...oh, you know the title.
The use of the word “porno” has caused mild controversy with some markets refusing its title and original promotional images were changed to feature stick figures to both appease the MPAA and make cheap fun of it.
The film was heavily edited to avoid a NC-17 but I doubt any of that material was any dicier or outrageous as the film wants itself to be. The lowdown is that it’s filled with scads of scatological humor, which is mostly tossed of in casual banter, and a lot of nudity (filmed in probably the most unsexy way I’ve ever seen) but nothing that would shock anybody who hasn’t seen the trailer and got already the gist.
That’s not to say it isn’t fairly funny and very watchable - Rogen and Banks are good together with amusing turns from the obligatory real porn star cameo by Traci Lords, Smith stock company member Jeff Anderson (Randal from CLERKS), and the bemused Craig Robinson (The Office, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS).
It appears from the duo’s ideas for a adult movie effort to help pay their bills that Smith’s pop culture reference lingo has really dated - enough with the STAR WARS whatnot! “Star Whores”? Really witty, Kevin. The Star Bucks stand-in “Bean ‘N Gone” that Rogen and Banks work and are forced to film their porno project at (further echoes of CLERKS) reeks of left-over retail complaints you’d think that Smith would be over at this point.
Smith delights in characters and premises that refuse to mature and that's fine, I just wish his film-making would grow up. Crude, badly cut, and just barely holding the narrative together, this movie is not the work of a polished confident director though I bet he would take that as a compliment.
Rogen carries a lot of the film on his affable back, rolling with a laid back nature while Banks’ spirit and go-with-it timing are a welcome contrast to her current portrayal of Laura Bush in W. They're both big reasons to see this movie whatever your views on the View Askewniverse. ZACK AND MIRI... has the soul of an 80’s teen movie, most definitively the oeuvre of John Hughes.
Its heart and motives are a pastiche of well worn tried and true predictability - the funny audition sequence, the on-the-fly dance number, the aim to make a distinction between sex and “making love”. The fact that it has a heart probably won’t concern those who want old school Kevin Smith shenanigans so the best I can say there is that this is much better than CLERKS II. ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO has too much worthy competition (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, TROPIC THUNDER, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) to be considered one of the best comedies of the year yet it is still likable enough even though it’s not as laughable as I would’ve liked.