“Zack and Miri Make a Porno” – Good Dirty Fun – 3 popcorns

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Popcorn by Michael GoldbergerBy Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

It is doubtful Guinness World Records will cite Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” as the most profanity-filled movie of all time. However, any deliberation thereof without at least the suggestion of honorable mention for this wild farce would be suspect. Beware, O ye faint of heart. Every four-lettered favorite is in attendance, and then some.

Relating the tale of two platonic roomies who ultimately decide on a rather unorthodox solution to their economic plight, filmmaker Smith goes out on so many limbs that there’s probably not one left in the forest. Outlandish to near “Borat” proportions, the nuttiness builds to a zany crescendo, ultimately enveloping you in its lunatical world.

But the wonderfully ironic thing is, scratch “Zack and Miri’s” tawdry surface and the skeleton upon which Smith has hung all his wanton flesh is strikingly familiar. Yep, it’s the same old ploy, whether seen here, in a Busby Berkeley spectacular or the small town folksiness of an Andy Hardy movie. All exhort, “Hey kids, let’s put on a play!”

OK, so it’s a different kind of show this go-round. Nonetheless, for all slacker Zack and Miri’s bravado, it’s ultimately their naiveté that adds a curious charm to the doings. Practically from the opening scenes, as they nervously prepare for their high school ten year reunion, we come to care about the title pair. Ten years out and they’re still lost.

Not that their lack of any recognizable accomplishment seems to have bothered them… until now. When the water stops running in their Pittsburgh row house digs, shortly followed by the conclusion of electric service, it’s apparent a change in course is required. But, true to his character, Seth Rogen’s Zack isn’t thinking a second job.

Nope, his thankless gig at the coffee house is quite enough, thank you. What he needs is a quick fix …a magic bullet, something easy. It’s obvious where this is heading. The seed is planted at the reunion, when the class football hero/heartthrob’s date introduces himself as a well-heeled porn star. All Zack has to do is convince Miri.

Now understand, he cautions her, this is strictly business. It will change nothing between them. Never mind that they’ve been friends since first grade. But we dig the undercurrent. The sexual tension is apparent to everyone but them. Miri coyly asks if this isn’t merely a ruse to have his way with her. Don’t flatter yourself, he responds.

OK, she’ll show him. She’ll do it. Plans are put in motion. Needing to bankroll the gambit, Zack solicits fellow barista Delaney, portrayed by Craig Robinson, who, by coming up with the cash, becomes producer. Soon they’ve gathered a hodgepodge of willing and able-bodied bodies.

Predictably, complications arise at nearly every juncture, including a done-to-death bamboozlement at their makeshift studio. Yet undaunted, Zack seamlessly keeps things in motion. Unbeknownst to Mr. Surya (Gerry Bednob), his constantly cursing, rightfully distrustful boss, they’ll film at the cafe from closing time ‘til morning.

After a while, Miri, played by Elizabeth Banks, can’t help but voice her astonishment at Zack’s sudden industriousness. Who is this take-charge guy? It looks like they just might pull off the crazy scheme. But the moment of truth looms. While most of the other, er, actors, have already done their darndest, Zack and Miri have yet to perform their scene.

The prospect of bearing their hearts, and whatever else, in front of an audience no less, has grown increasingly uncomfortable. Yet, to say so would be to acknowledge what both are afraid to confront. Therefore, nah, no big deal, full steam ahead. This gives novel nuance to the expression, ‘The show must go on.’ We are unsurprised by the result.

If something can be sweetly raw or rawly sweet, Kevin Smith manages it here. You can make a good case for the film’s diabolical duality. But the most notable contradiction is how, though backed by the big buck, otherwise prestigious Weinstein Co., he recaptures the primitive honesty of his earlier, independent works.

A game cast doesn’t hurt. Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) as the underachieving but likable, working class fool without a cause was born to play this role. Miss Banks supplies a tarnished winsomeness; Craig Robinson is funny as the henpecked dreamer, and Smith regular Jason Mewes is appropriately offbeat as the lewd Lester.

Lastly, just for the sake of authenticity, mind you, porn star Katie Morgan and actress Traci Lords star as Stacey and Bubbles, respectively. Resulting in a madcap synergy of conventional and fringe elements, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is hilarious proof positive that love can indeed be found where you least expect it.

“Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” rated R, is a Weinstein Company release directed by Kevin Smith and stars Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks and Craig Robinson. Running time: 102 minutes


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0 comments for ““Zack and Miri Make a Porno” – Good Dirty Fun – 3 popcorns

  1. herculesrob
    November 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Hey. Great review! I was surprised at how much I liked this movie when it sort of changed directions with what I was expecting. I really didn’t sense the strong romantic aspect in this raunchy-comedy from the trailer and commercials, but when it was unfolding I really didn’t mind it. And also, as one who really doesn’t care for most of Kevin Smith’s work, I found a lot of Judd Apatow’s influence with this film… which is why I think I liked Zack and Miri so much.

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