Film Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

November 10, 2008

Kevin Smith has made for himself a career of dirty comedy. Sometimes it works, as in “Clerks.” Sometimes it falls on its face, as in “Clerks 2.” This time, with “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” Smith has taken the “Clerks” franchise formula and applied to it the sweetness of a Judd Apatow production. The result is something less than success.

The gist of the plot is this: Zack Brown (Seth Rogen) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks) have been platonic friends since high school and live together in near-poverty. Zack works at a coffee shop called “Bean-N-Gone,” which is Starbucksier than Starbucks itself. Miri works at, um, the mall. What she does there is anyone’s guess, since the film seems to only establish that fact to make sure you know that she does indeed bring home some bacon. Needless to say, neither of them earns a lot of money and both of them spend their money in the typical American way: on stuff they don’t need, like sex toys. The eventual result: their water and power are turned off.

It so happens that right around this time, Zack and Miri attend their 10-year high school reunion, where Miri unsuccessfully tries to seduce former classmate Bobby Long (Brandon Routh — yes, Superman), who is gay and dates a man named Brandon St. Randy (played by Justin Long, in the first time I’ve ever seen him as a character actor, to hilarious effect), a gay porn actor. It is from them that Zack and Miri learn that porn is lucrative, and also that they are the unwitting stars of a very popular YouTube video that features Miri in her “granny panties.”

Naturally, this leads to Zack and Miri deciding to enter dozens of sweepstakes make a porno so they can pay their bills. They settle on “Star Whores,” recruiting Zack’s coworker Delaney (Craig Robinson, who deserves a shot at a starring role) to finance the film and Zack’s hockey buddy Deacon (Jeff Anderson, of “Clerks” fame, playing what seems like a ten-years-later version of Randal) to be the cameraman. They cast a man with the charming name of Lester the Molester (Jason Mewes, the Jay of Jay and Silent Bob) as the primary “actor” in the film, and recruit a local stripper named Stacey (Katie Morgan, an actual porn acress), along with a woman named only Bubbles (Traci Lords, a former porn actress) and a guy named Barry (Ricky Mabe), whose presence in the film seems completely unnecessary.

This ragtag bunch actually does a ridiculously good job (considering the budget) with the set and costumes of “Star Whores,” only to have the whole thing come crashing down — literally. The whole building is promptly demolished, and the “Star Whores” dream is destroyed, leading the crew to embark on a new project, “Swallow My Cockuccino,” which they film after hours at the Bean-N-Gone.

The casting and filming lead, of course, to plenty of opportunities for sex jokes (and worse) that are, by and large, very funny. The jokes rarely miss their mark, but considering what the movie is, they’re too few and far between.

Naturally, there is a budding romance going on, and this is what keeps the movie too busy to make enough good dirty jokes. The big scene in the porno involves Zack and Miri sleeping with each other for the very first time. Needless to say, instead of “fucking,” if you will, they “make love” and fall in love, to absolutely no one’s surprise — seemingly not even their own.

The problem with all this is that Rogen and Banks have zero chemistry as lovers. None. There is really nothing there. As friends, they work; as lovers, it’s even more unbelievable than Rogen and Katherine Heigl in “Knocked Up.” The whole manner in which they fall in love feels obvious, cliche and forced. The characters themselves are underdeveloped; there’s really nothing particularly new or interesting about either Zack or Miri. We’ve seen these characters before, and we don’t feel like there’s any particular reason to root for them to succeed, except that they seem to be fairly nice people, for the most part.

As with many mediocre comedies, it’s the supporting characters who carry “Zack and Miri.” Robinson’s Delaney and Mewes’ Lester are by far the film’s most entertaining characters, but they’re relegated to second-string as we have to watch Zack and Miri live out their boring lives with some boring melodrama.

Much as “Zack and Miri” has been hailed as a warm, romantic take on a Kevin Smith film, the warmth and romance ultimately ring hollow, and the film’s dirty jokes are funny, but not enough to carry an otherwise mediocre effort.

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One Response to “Film Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno”

  1. rural said

    just for the sake of love,

    snarksnarksnarksnarksnarksnark
    snarksnarksnarksnarksnarksnarksnark
    snarksnarksnarksnarksnark
    snarksnarksnarksnarksnarksnark
    snarksnarksnarksnarksnark

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