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Zach & Miri Make a Porno

A movie directed by Kevin Smith

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Funny, raunch stuff! Kevin Smith tries to outdo Apatow.

  • Jan 13, 2009
Rating:
+2
First there was Kevin Smith, with his patented brand of hugely over-the-top raunch in CLERKS. As he "matured," he added a level of true feeling behind this work in CHASING AMY. And then he sort of lost his way with a few pretty awful films. Meanwhile, Judd Apatow established himself as the King of Sweet Raunch with 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP, SUPERBAD, etc. In these films, the characters spoke about sex with a level of filthy detail never before heard. They indulged in reckless behavior. They were the kinds of people films had for decades told us were "bad." Yet we recognized people we knew in them, or even ourselves. They were also infused with an innocence and an acknowledgement that behind all the strutting bluster, we all just want to be loved. They acknowledged the weakness in men, and the strength in women who can make these men pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start to take life seriously. This was the Apatow "brand."

Now Kevin Smith has come storming back to reclaim his part of that little mountain. While his ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO doesn't re-establish him as King, it reminds us that Apatow and others owe him a debt...and that he's still capable of out-raunching the raunchiest stuff we've seen. And, as will be no surprise to anyone who has seen the trailers for the film, he mixes in the "sweet" stuff pretty well too.

The presence of Apatow disciple Seth Rogan makes the film seem more like an Apatow film than perhaps it really is. For example, in movies like SUPERBAD, there is actually relatively little sex being had. Characters talk about it, and they sure would like to be indulging in it...but not much happens. In ZACK & MIRI, a great deal of sex is had and shown. It is a far more visually explicit movie than Apatow's (the full frontal male nudity in WALK HARD being a notable exception). I wouldn't want to compare the level of explicit imagery in the dialogue side by side with a SUPERBAD, but I suspect that ZACK & MIRI is also verbally just a smidge more explicit as well.

Zack (Rogan) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have been friends since first grade, and now, on the eve of their 10th High School Reunion, they are roommates sharing a rundown rental and one very run down car. They both have dead-end jobs and apparently no ambition. They also have not paid bills in quite awhile. While neither seems exactly HAPPY with life, both are content in the little routines they have to get through the day.

Miri forces Zack to go with her to the reunion, because she's hoping to shamelessly throw herself at the "boy" she crushed on in school (Brandon Routh). Zack, meanwhile, has an interesting conversation with this guys boyfriend (a hilarious Justin Long, as we've never seen him), who apparently is a well-known gay porn actor. Naturally, Miri is crushed to find this guy she intended to sleep with is gay, but the two are more upset to find their hot water and electricity has been turned off. But Zack comes up with the "great" idea to make a pornographic movie in order to pay their bills.

I won't dwell on the specifics anymore, but you can imagine how things might develop. The two hapless friends have no money and no video camera, so they have to turn to friends to underwrite their crazy venture, and an unlikely troupe of filmmakers develops. There are obligatory scenes of auditions and the struggle to come up with the right title for the film. (If this weren't a "family" site, I'd share a few...the one involving a twist on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA just about made me spew soda through my nose)

It's all quite, quite raunchy. While not literally as explicit as a real porn film, not all that much is held back. I can sure see why Smith had to fight to avoid an NC-17 rating. Under absolutely no circumstances to you want to see this film with your kids...no matter how old your kids are!

Will Zack & Miri find out they are right for each other? Will doing porn ruin their discovery? The film holds few plot related surprises, frankly. It is the verbal dazzle that keeps you entertained.

And the performances. Seth Rogan pretty much gives us the same character again...but he does have an ease about his acting that makes him enjoyable. His characters may be insecure, but Rogan is not. But it is Elizabeth Banks who surprises the most. I've seen her in a lot of smaller roles (on "Scrubs", for example) and to be honest, she's struck me as vaguely perky but lightweight. Here, it is frankly a bit startling to see her right in this raunchy mix, her mouth as dirty as anyone else. Smith has empowered her, that's for sure (don't know if that's a good thing for "society" or not). She also finds some true depths in Miri, particularly as the film winds down, that elevate her performance to a special level. It's not Oscar winning stuff, exactly, but it will make people sit up and take notice of her. This, and her praised performance in W., have made it quite a good year for her.

The movie is hilarious. That's what you want to know, isn't it? My wife and I both laughed uproariously many time. It will offend you, too. Smith loses control a few times, with some random scenes that grind the story to a halt. Most revolved around the character played by Jason Mewes (better known as "Jay" in a myrid of Smith's earlier films) a young man who makes it into the film due to some "special talent." He's funny, but his stuff seems out of place...as though Smith stopped his movie to let his old buddy riff on some dirty stuff. There's also some stuff about a constipated actress that devolves into the nastiest couple of seconds you've ever seen, that even so are unbelievable, unlikely, unfunny AND distract from a key moment for the story.

(By the way, I apologize if I've offended anyone with the review...tough to talk much about this film without stretching the boundaries a little. If you find my review offensive...please skip the film.)

Overall, Smith has made a funny and sometimes tender film. If Judd Apatow had never existed, this film would be groundbreaking. Now it is a familiar formula, with the raunchy dial turned to 11. But, if that's something you've enjoyed before, you'll get many big laughs from ZACK & MIRI!

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More Zack and Miri Make a Porno reviews
review by . April 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
TWO FRIENDS NEED TO PAY THE BILLS
ZACH & MIRIR MAKE A PORNO       I have been a Kevin Smith fan since "Clerks" first came out and I have been a fan of his since, in fact Kevin and Quentin Tarantino are my favorite filmmakers. I was extremely excited when I fond out that this movie was coming out, and even more so when I learned Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson would be in this film. Of course I was right there opening day to see the film and at midnight on the 3rd of Feb I was right there to buy the …
Quick Tip by . January 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
This is really one of the best movies I have seen in a while especially a comedy in particular, really it is that good. The entire cast was brilliant and were a wonderful on screen group; all of them need to keep making movies like this. Kevin Smith, Mosier, and Klein all did magnificent jobs and should always continue to work together. I recommend this movie to everybody who likes watching movies; it really is that good, at least to me. As were I would say this may not be for everybody because …
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Ranked #149
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Director: Kevin Smith
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Release Date: 31 October 2008 (USA)
Screen Writer: Kevin Smith
Runtime: 101 min
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