Friday, October 31, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno


Our little Kevin Smith is all grown up, sort of. With Zack and Miri Make a Porno, he's finally made a movie that looks like a real movie. He has been criticized his entire career (most loudly by Smith himself) that his movies looked bad, and he mainly succeeded due to his writing abilities. I wondered at first if Smith had gotten a new Director of Photography to make the movie look so different, but I find that the DP is Dave Klein, the same one who shot Smith's Clerks (1 and 2), Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. Regardless, the movie looks good, and it most definitely still sounds like a Kevin Smith movie. It is profane as it can be, raunchier sexually than any of his movies have ever been, and full of pop culture references. It's also hilarious, quick witted, and more successfully heartfelt than any of Smith's previous movies.

Smith moves away from his beloved New Jersey to Pittsburgh, and gives us the story of Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), best friends and strictly platonic roommates who've known each other since the 1st grade. Around the time they're attending their 10 year high school reunion, their water, heat, and electricity are turned off. Probably because they're a few months behind in paying their bills. They're a few months behind because Zack is a barista at a small coffee shop, and Miri (short for Miriam) works at a clothing store. They manage their small income poorly, buying sex toys and hockey equipment, instead of paying bills. While trying to come up with ways to make money, Miri jokingly says that it's times like those that lead people to hooking and/or making porn. Zack thinks it's a great idea ("Porn is mainstream now") and convinces Miri that it will save them from their financial troubles. Zack enlists his co-worker Delany (The Office's Craig Robinson) as producer, and through auditioning, some of which just involves asking strippers what they will and won't do, come across Stacey (real life porn star Katie Morgan), Bubbles (former porn star Traci Lords), and Lester (Smith regular Jason Mewes). Zack also recruits old high school friend Deacon (Jeff Anderson, previously one of Smith's Clerks) to shoot the movie. Essentially, hijinks ensue from there as the crew try to make their movie, and Zack and Miri contemplate the repercussions of having sex with each other for the first time.

It's not a perfect movie, it does drag in the second half, but at just over 100 minutes it's not like it's wearing out its welcome. The actors are all surprisingly good, especially considering that I'm told it's the first Smith movie where the actors had no rehearsal time prior to the start of production. This is Smith's best set of performances yet, especially by his two leads. Rogen is a known commodity by now, after Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express, and he basically just plays his typical character here. Banks is less well known to most people (except us Scrubs fans). Both are good in their roles, with Banks in particular giving a lot of emotional weight to Miri. Zack and Miri each have internal struggles dealing with their feelings about their life-long relationship and how having sex (even if it is just "acting in a movie") changes that. Both actors portray believably intelligent, and emotionally inarticulate at the same time. Craig Robinson is hysterical throughout the movie (although the scene with his wife was unnecessary), and Jason Mewes shows that he can play more than just Jay to Smith's Silent Bob (but to be fair, he's not playing that different of a character). Some of the funniest supporting performances come from a gay couple Zack and Miri run into at their reunion, played by Justin Long (the Mac guy from the "Mac & PC" commercials) and our latest Superman, Brandon Routh. Although they're only in one scene, it's a great one as Routh's character tries to fend off Miri's advances (he was her high school crush) and Zack is fascinated to find out that Long's character is a gay porn star, giving Zack the intial do-it-yourself attitude towards porn.

Ok, about the title, I find it hysterical that Kevin Smith has run into issues with advertising this movie simply because of the word "porno". Many ads have just started calling it "Zack and Miri". To be fair, it isn't just the title, the poster pictured below was banned in the US due to its suggestiveness, but come on people, lighten up. There are worse things in the world than sex (actually come to think of it, pretty much everything in the world is worse than sex). Smith also had problems with the MPAA over the rating of the movie. It was initially given the dreaded NC-17 rating, but was lowered upon appeal. Apparently the MPAA didn't have a problem with the language so much as it was with the nudity (full frontal male and female), and the sex scenes (one of which has no nudity, the others being deliberately over the top). Thankfully Smith won his battle without having to cut anything that he didn't want to, and has delivered what is most likely his best movie yet. With his growth in the visual department, I'm now actually kind of looking forward to what he'll try to do with the sci-fi and horror movies he's long talked about doing.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I would watch this just because I love Kevin Smith's sense of humor. I will be happy to see "Jay" again, as I think he steals the scene from most every one else. Thanks for the review!