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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Review

by Drew Hunt

Indie filmmaker Kevin Smith has been doing raunch for over a decade. His benevolent, wise-cracking films seep with equal parts vulgarity and wit, and although he's never been known for his directing prowess, his unwavering fan base has stood by the chubby auteur for the entire ride. His latest effort, the sickeningly sweet Zack and Miri Make a Porno, is his latest foray into the heralded realm of "dick and fart jokes", this time enlisting the help of comedic super-star Seth Rogen and budding leading lady Elizabeth Banks.

Rogen and Banks star as Zack and Miri, respectively, two long-time friends and roommates experiencing some dire financial straits. After reaching the rockiest of bottoms, they decide to scrape together some dough by making a porno they will film and star in themselves. But as the cameras start to roll and the clothes come off, their friendship is called into question as new feelings arise due to their survival-by-fornication. Crazyness, of course, ensues. But what also arises is a insightful look at love and friendships, as the titular characters go through the motions of their emotional awakening.

Zack and Miri is an appealing, albeit uneven experience. One of Smith's biggest criticisms as a writer continues to be his using his characters as a vehicle for his own cynical diatribes. His films have always been somewhat self-indulgent, and this one is no exception: the parallels between the making of Zack and Miri's porno and Smith's making of his first film, Clerks, are more or less the same. And while the film may not be set in his obligatory Askewniverse, the dialogue is entirely Smith's -- whether you like his style will ultimately make or break this film for you. Which is to say fans of Smith's, and fans of Rogen's, will be in tears. The movie is consistently hilarious, with one-liners and site gags aplenty. Let it be known that Zack and Miri is very Apatow-ish: the sophomoric language mixed with genuine emotion has become a new trend in recent comedies, and while the brand is mostly associated with Judd Apatow, one could argue that Smith has been doing the exact same thing since his debut film, Clerks -- only he had more Star Wars jokes.

Not content to let Rogen and Banks have all the fun, other Apatow regulars put in great efforts as well. The Office's Craig Robinson steals every scene as an embittered coffee-shop clerk doubling as the movie’s producer and breast-auditioner (His obsession with making the all-anal extravaganza Star Whores: Revenge of the Shit is golden, as is the underrated actor.), and Justin Long gets chuckles as a macho gay porn star.

But do be reminded that this is a Kevin Smith film, and a true Kevin Smith film wouldn't be complete without the likes of Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes (Jay to Smith’s Silent Bob, here playing second fiddle to his own scrotum). Both shine in small roles. Anderson, in particular, will be remembered as taking the brunt of one of the biggest "shit-storms" ever, while Mewes finally bares all as an actor (i.e.: you see his dick).

Sound vulgar? You bet. But Zack and Miri is a tricky little bastard, a sweet-hearted chick flick covered in jizz that frequently hits comic G spots. You really can’t save Kevin Smith from Kevin Smith -- the film is structurally unsound and the gee-whiz romanticism is somewhat reminiscent John Hughes dragged through When Harry Met Sally. But Smith has a knack for dick jokes. Likewise, Rogen and Banks have a gift for delivering them. The charisma and filthy lunacy (like Clerks, Zack and Miri was initially slapped with an NC-17) make it easy to see past the discharge to Smith’s most consistently funny flick since his first.

****

Netflix, Inc.