There are far too many films lacking the word “porno” in their title. But what may appear to be a gross-out sex comedy on the surface is actually a Kevin Smith film with more emotional resonance than most of his previous work.
“Zack & Miri Make a Porno” is the story of two childhood friends, the titular Zack and Miri, who are shlogging through their 20s working low-wage jobs and spending their earnings on hockey skates, toys and Fleshlights, while ignoring a mounting pile of bills.
When the twosome find themselves on the brink of starvation, they are forced into the glamorous world of amateur pornography. Knowing they can’t write, direct, film and star in the movie by themselves, a rebel crew is assembled. For this, Smith even recruited real-life adult film stars Katie Morgan and Traci Lords.
But what was originally a passing idea, the prospect of making a porno, takes on weight. Can there be sex without consequences? Like in all of his films, Smith demonstrates that as hard as we try to differentiate between fucking and making love, the line is a thin one.
Coming off this summer’s “Pineapple Express,” Seth Rogen returns to a role similar to his work in “Freaks and Geeks.” Instead of being the pot-smoking ne’er-do-well, which he is currently pigeonholed as, Rogen’s Zack is childlike, impish and yet, a mature and pensive character at the same time.
Initially, Elizabeth Banks’ Miri is present only to be reactionary to Zack, but as time goes on, she breaks into her role. Banks shows a woman at an emotional crossroads and at no point does she ever undermine her performance by becoming a victim. She rightfully and graciously takes as much fault in this relationship as Zack.
Smith shines in his creation of authentic exchanges between men and women – not just the word choices, but those subtle glances and pauses that are true to life. He gets how people engage one another, but he also gets how we all feel, even if those emotions aren’t always the prettiest.
But this is not to say this is a serious movie. It is quite the contrary.
The film’s true laugh riot is Craig Robinson. After years of stealing scenes in films like “Knocked Up,” “Walk Hard” and his work on “The Office,” Robinson delivers big as Rogen’s co-worker/producer.
Brandon Routh of “Superman Returns” fame and Justin “I’m a Mac” Long both go against type by playing a pair of gay actors in a scene that leads to nothing but comedic results.
With songs from Marcy Playground, Primus, Len and MC Chris, Smith continues his tradition of elegantly synching popular music to even the most awkward of human experiences. In the climactic wrap party scene, Live’s “Lift Me Up” plays over what may be the most heartbreaking moment in recent film.
Even though Gawker has said this picture may not necessarily be Smith’s because of Rogen’s appearance, it should also be noted that Gawker has it out for Rogen. Just look at the tone of the Ghostbusters 3 article.
Judd Apatow may have created the monster that is Rogen, but he didn’t invent the comedy. Smith has engineered a film that is hilarious, thoughtful and dirty enough to make even Andrew Dice Clay cringe. Keeping this in mind, this film packs more sentiment and genuineness than many of the films created today, including Apatow’s.