Eric D. Snider

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Movie Review

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: B-

Released: October 31, 2008

 

Directed by:

Cast:

You have to feel a little sorry for Kevin Smith. His first film, "Clerks," set the modern standard for vulgar, talky comedies, initially earning an NC-17 rating for its dialogue alone. Yet mainstream success has eluded Smith -- none of his seven films has grossed more than $30 million. Meanwhile, here comes this Judd Apatow character, directing and producing the same kind of R-rated sex-and-weed comedies but pulling in $100 million grosses almost every time.

"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" finds Smith playing catch-up. He cast two Apatow alumni, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, as his title characters, which makes comparisons even more unavoidable, but it was a smart move. If anyone can mix smut with sincerity, it's Rogen and Banks.

Zack and Miri are lifelong best friends and platonic roommates in Pittsburgh who can barely pay the bills with their dead-end jobs. Depressed and on the verge of being evicted, they attend their high school reunion -- yeah, that's always great for lifting your spirits -- and run into Bobby Long (Brandon Routh), Miri's one-time crush who's now out of the closet and whose boyfriend, Brandon (Justin Long), makes a nice living as a porn star. And thus the seeds of an idea are sown.

Miri points out to Zack that you don't see other people making porno films in order to pay the bills. Zack points out to Miri that "other people have options! And dignity!" Zack and Miri have neither, and they know it. It'll be easy money.

They don't just want to make a sex tape, though; those are a dime a dozen on the Internet. They want to make an actual porno film, with a lame plot and terrible acting and everything, and to that end they recruit several willing actors and actresses (including Kevin Smith mainstay Jason Mewes) to assist. There is ample humor in the casting process, and in Zack's cameraman friend Delaney's (Craig Robinson) gratitude at being able to participate in a job that lets him look at naked women. Zack's first concept is a "Star Wars"-themed porn, but this proves to be nothing more than Smith's excuse to make dirty "Star Wars"-themed puns. It's eventually scrapped, and the cast and crew produce a more generic skin flick after hours in the coffee shop where Zack works.

Zack and Miri supervise as the other cast members film scenes together (of which Smith gives us plenty of hard-R-rated footage), putting off the segment that will require them to perform with each other. When the time arrives, it becomes emotionally complicated, and yet another friendship is ruined (or nearly ruined) by sex.

It hurts Smith's film, too. The laughs are plentiful, the obscene observations witty and well delivered, for two-thirds of the running time. But when Zack and Miri's feelings for each other become the focus, "Zack and Miri" becomes soggy and trite, and the rift between the two friends is dragged out for so long that the plot grows tiresome. Get back to the dirty jokes already!

Of course, real human emotions have never been Smith's strong suit (Exhibit A: "Jersey Girl"), so it shouldn't be too hard for fans to overlook "Zack and Miri's" weaknesses and just laugh at the raunchiness -- which, for all of Smith's posturing in interviews and promotions, isn't as outrageously envelope-pushing as it would like to be. (Zack and Miri don't even take off their clothes in their pivotal sex scene, making them the worst porn actors in history.) There are times when Smith is obviously being gross just for the sake of being gross, a tactic that's beneath a skilled filth-monger such as himself.

But the Justin Long cameo is hilarious, Jason Mewes is crudely, blithely funny as always, and of course there's Rogen and Banks, two of the most capable actors you'll find for this kind of thing. It's not their fault that the emotional components don't resonate. Come to think of it, the mushy stuff is always the weakest part of the Apatow films too.

Grade: B-

Rated R, pervasive harsh profanity and graphic sexual dialogue, some graphic sexual content, a lot of nudity

1 hr., 42 min.

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This item has 22 comments

  1. Chuckwagon Breakfast says:

    "pervasive harsh profanity and graphic sexual dialogue, some graphic sexual content, a lot of nudity "

    Hmmm, maybe I'll skip this one. When does the next Pixar movie come out?

  2. Skizat says:

    Nice, Chuck. Cuteness with a strong dash of self-righteousness. Don't know how you pulled it off!

  3. Clumpy says:

    I hope Smith starts making Apatow movies and attaching himself to any project with which he had a tangential relationship. Then we'd have a good three dozen of the things coming out a year. . .

  4. m says:

    "Cuteness with a strong dash of self-righteousness."

    That's right, Skizat. Publicly supporting pornography? Great! Publicly saying you don't? Self-righteous!

  5. Davey Boy says:

    Publicly saying you don't support pornography when nobody asked you in the first place is self-righteous.

  6. whome says:

    "when nobody asked you in the first place"

    Um, I think this is a comment section to allow people to comment with their own opinions about the review above, the movie itself, and discuss tangential items.

    The term "self-righteous" is usually misapplied in our culture, used as a synonym for "un-cool", "prude", or "doesn't agree with me". (One person says: "I don't like violence on tv," and the other person says: "You are so self-righteous.") The word is usually used when one person takes offense or feels threatened that the other person has a different opinion.

  7. Stacy says:

    I would like to self righteously mention I loves me some porno.

  8. Rob D. says:

    You make a good point about Kevin Smith. He started it all with Clerks and Apatow is making all of the money. I loved Clerks and thought his other movies were just pretty good. I loved this movie though and I'm glad to see he is capable of making a movie almost as good as Clerks again. That being said, with Rogen as the main character- you would think that he would make big money at the box office, but it isn't doing well at all. I think this movie would have done better in the summer. The halloween opening was not smart.

  9. Rob D says:

    I forgot to say that I do agree with Eric that when it becomes emotional- it does get worse. I think it was a little more believable in Knocked Up because of the baby (but these kind of movies are better without the love story). How does Rogen's characters get these hot women to fall in love with him anyway........

  10. Genevieve says:

    I loved Clerks but I feel like Kevin Smith never lived up to that potential. I might just go see this movie this weekend though, even though Smith movies kinda scare me (post Clerks)(& yes, I know that would be everything). But I'm a big Rogen & Banks fan. Sad this movie isn't doing better. But neither did Pineapple Express & I thought that was one of the best movies I ever saw. Must of lost 5 pounds from laughing so hard. Also, I don't see how you can compare Apatow to Smith as far as Apatow doing the same thing but making the money. Apatow's flicks consistently have better writing & actors. They're just all around way better films.

  11. Rob D. says:

    Genevieve- Pineapple Express made 22.4 million compared to Zack and Miri's 10.1 million in its opening weekend. Pineapple Express also had staying power and made 87.3 million (this movie will be lucky to reach 30-40 million in total). So even though it didn't do as well as other Apatow movies, Kevin Smith would kill for numbers even close to that.

  12. Genevieve says:

    I guess in my head I just though PE should have done as well as any mainstream blockbuster so when it didn't I was upset.

    In my attempt to help ZAMMAP I'm going to go see it this weekend. Besides, I have a huge crush on Rogen, so who am I kidding. And a Rogen & Banks sandwich, oh my gosh, heaven.

    p.s.
    Some Salt Lake City idiot won't show ZAMMAP at his stupid theater but he'll show torture porn Saw 5?!?!?!?!?! (I tried to post a link but this site won't take it)

  13. Rob D. says:

    Lol, that Salt Lake idiot that won't show this movie probably didn't even watch this or Saw V. He was probably thinking to himself.........a porno? shouldn't that be rated XXX. Now Saw V must be good for the whole family. It's probably about a man who cuts down trees and donates the wood to Habitat for Humanity to help them build homes for people in need.

  14. Genevieve says:

    I like the way you think Rob D

  15. L says:

    Yep. If you only see movies in Larry H. Miller's theaters, you also wouldn't have been able to see Brokeback Mountain--widely recognized as one of the best movies of 2005. His censorship criteria is really bad, to put it mildly.

    While we're talking about censorship in Utah, I was also disappointed there were no theaters (except maybe the Tower?) showing Religulous.

  16. Eric D. Snider says:

    1) It's not censorship. Larry Miller, misguided though he may be, can choose what to show at his own theaters. Censorship would be if he attempted to prevent people from seeing the movie altogether, which he did not do.

    2) "Religulous" only played on 500 screens nationwide. It's not surprising that only one or two of those were in Utah, as that's consistent with most limited-release films.

  17. L says:

    Thanks, Eric. I've learned something today. I guess Larry H. Miller isn't a censor. He's just a misguided, self-righteous, homophobic, hypocritical SOB, and I, for one, wish I could go to a baseball game in Utah without lining his pockets with even more $$$. He may as well be appointed King in these parts.

    You should feel lucky you've escaped the realm.

  18. dcunitedfan says:

    L:

    I have a solution for you: Stop watching a crappy sport like baseball and switch to soccer. Would there be any better way to get under Larry H. Miller's skin than by supporting Real Salt Lake and the stadium he so vehemently opposed?

  19. Jodie says:

    Well actually, if you want to see Kevin Smith do well with real human emotion, his film Chasing Amy did I great job in my opinion.

  20. Liz Perry says:

    I can't believe I'm seeing protest emails sent around about this movie. Of all the movies I've seen over the years, this isn't one that I would put on a list to protest. Of course, I'm not lame enough to spend my time protesting movies at all...

  21. DJ says:

    I agree it is silly to protest this movie. Kevin Smith has been much more offensive than this.

    As for the movie, all I can say is that I laughed out loud throughout this thing more than I can remember doing in recent years. Definitely a fun time at the movies!

  22. Jack Hoff USA says:

    A window into American moral values, or to be more precise, the COMPLETE LACK thereof.

    Miri and Zack are two 30-something losers (with a capital L) who, just like the U.S. Fed, suddenly find themselves utterly bankrupt and on the verge of homelessness. So in typical American fashion, they both decide to take the easy way out and make a porno movie for some quick cash. Of course their decision leaves the viewer confused as to why they don't simply just go out and get themselves a F'ing JOB instead, but THAT would be a sensible solution and Americans are definitely NOT interested in THOSE. One is also left wondering why Miri doesn't just go sell one of her kidneys, until one realizes the BRILLIANCE of her plan; she can only sell one of her kidneys ONCE, whereas she can rent-out [vulgar description deleted]. Ah, doesn't American entrepreneurship just WARM your heart?

    This movie features the usual torrent of F-words and vulgar language that we've all come to expect from this particular director, along with some sofisticated acting on the part of such well-known Thespians as Traci Lords, who plays a prostitute that can blow bubbles with her vagina. Kinda like Alan Greenspan and Bernanke do except Traci's bubbles DON'T impoverish half of humanity.

    Back to this flick; if you're the typical American that likes to [vulgarity deleted], SEE IT.
    If on the other hand you value quality, logic, intelligence and have a strong set of moral values, DON'T BOTHER.

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