Laura CliffordBest friends since they were kids, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have been roommates for years. Theirs has been a platonic relationship with neither ever having a romantic thought of the other. The unambitious pair has bill problems, though, and things get bleak when, first, the water is turned off, then, the power. With winter fast approaching, they have to find a way to make more money. The solution? “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”
Judd Apatow may not have had a thing to do with “Zack and Miri” but his influence on new millennium “guy” comedies has been unstoppable since his directing debut, “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” Gross out humor mixed with post-adolescent romance are now the staple of modern comedy. Surprisingly, Kevin Smith, whose own films became a genre often imitated, falls under the “Juddernaut” spell.
The idea of the two friends being of the opposite sex is a nice spin on the new genre and Rogen and Banks have a lot of chemistry, especially before they perform the titular act. They are totally secure in their friendship and more like a brother and sister who genuinely like each other. Banks, in particular, pulls off the tomboy behavior that makes Miri a likable character, someone you would want to be friends with. Seth Rogen plays the same note that we are used to from the actor, though this time with a bit more warmth early on. It is no stretch for Rogen.
The script, by Smith, is best when the actual porno prep gets under way. The routine audition montage does have some chuckles but it is when the rest of the parts are filled that the best humor is had. Once the cast is hired they need to come up with a title for their opus, playing on those of real movies. One title bandied about is “Star Whores.” Get it?
The supporting cast is most amusing with former porn star Traci Lords topping the dirty movie cast as Bubbles, which gives you a clue to her special talent. Jeff Anderson, best known as Randal Graves in the “Clerks” franchise, plays Deacon, a buddy who owns a camera and becomes the director. Another longtime Kevin Smith collaborator, Jason Mewes (remember Jay and Silent Bob?), plays always ready to roll porn actor, Lester, with the usual Mewes ‘tude. Katie Morgan is a lovable ditz as Stacey, an actress so serious about her work that she asks Zack to sleep with her so she can get into the part. The entire supporting cast give likable, wholesome (and in a movie that has “Porno” in the title) performances where the sex is ultra soft core and the jokes funny.
Kevin Smith, we know, has a knack for comedy, which makes me wonder why he made a Judd Apatow movie (without Judd). The director-writer-actor-editor has enough experience to continue his own way instead of making a retread. “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is funny, evenly paced with some good, amusing performances. I give it a B.
Zack (Seth Rogen, "Knocked Up," "Pineapple Express") and Miri (Elizabeth Banks, "W.") have been friends forever, but the twenty-something roommates have a high school reunion coming up and are in serious financial straights. Miri hopes to seduce her old crush Bobby (Brandon Routh, "Superman Returns") at the bash, but Zack discovers Bobby's sexual orientation in talking to Bobby's date Brandon (Justin Long, "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," "Alvin and the Chipmunks"), a gay porn actor who switches on a light bulb for the coffee jockeying schlub. Zack decides he and his best friend's money troubles will be over when "Zack and Miri Make a Porno."
Zack schleps away at 'Bean-n-Gone' under the distrustful eye of Mr. Surya (Gerry Bednob, "The 40 Year Old Virgin," "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"). Coworker Delaney (Craig Robinson, TV's "The Office," "Pineapple Express") finally has the money saved for a widescreen TV, but is seduced intro producing Zack's X-rater. Deacon (Jeff Anderson, "Clerks," "Clerks II") is brought on to run the camera and auditions produce Bubbles (Traci Lords, "Open Up Traci," "Cry-Baby"), Barry (Ricky Mabe, "Isn't She Great," "Trailer Park of Terror"), Stacey (Katie Morgan, "Playgirl: Naughty and Uncensored") and Lester 'the molester' (Jason Mewes, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"), but when they arrive on set near the completion of "Star Whores" and find their warehouse and its contents under demolition the demoralized filmmakers are forced to regroup. Zack is inspired once again and decides to use the "Bean-n-Gone" after hours to produce "Swallow My Cockaccino."
Writer/editor/director Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Jersey Girl") tries to latch onto the current Judd Apatow phenom by mixing his regulars with the Apatow troupe (and a couple of porn industry vets) and his instincts pay off - in casting. Seth Rogen is thoroughly appealing as the doughy amateur porn star who realizes he's been in love with his best friend all along when he's faced with staging her in hard core. Banks is saddled with trying to be a female love interest *and* be willing to prostitute herself and while she has charisma with Rogen, Miri's vaguely sluttish ways make the character harder to route for. Mewes's enthusiastic exhibitionism is the film's niftiest naughty bit.
Smith the director gets a smooth ensemble vibe from his cast and, in his second film to feature the act of filmmaking, actually exhibits some visual interest (director of photography David Klein, "Clerks," "Chasing Amy"), but Smith the writer falls down badly when it comes to producing laughs. "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" is sweet and it's raunchy, but it's rarely funny and that's pretty fatal for a romantic comedy.
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