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Pornography in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry and director Kevin Smith is apparently trying to tap some of that revenue stream with his latest endeavor, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. While the title might imply a more edgy or raunchy film, Smith’s comedy is as mainstream and formulaic as it could possibly be. It’s fun, yes, but die-hard Smith fans are going to feel like their favorite convenience store has been bought out by a big corporate chain.
Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are quickly – and platonically – approaching 30 with not much to show for themselves. In fact, they’re about to attend their 10-year high school reunion and don’t even have electricity at home, let alone anything to brag about. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When they accidentally become an Internet phenomenon, they decide to take matters into their own hands and sell some sex.
What follows is an entertaining, if not entirely original, series of movie-making mishaps; it’s like a behind-the-scenes extra on a porn DVD. From funding, provided by breast-obsessed Delaney (The Office‘s Craig Robinson), to the casting of strippers and well-endowed men, the ups and downs of porn start getting to everyone.
In addition to directing, Smith also penned the script, a mixture of dialogue that’s either vulgar or hysterical — or both. Unfortunately, it feels like every line is supposed to be a punch line, so there’s a lack of natural rhythm and banter. In fact, someone should have given the film some cinematic Viagra, because it falters at critical moments. Yet once the set-up is finished and the intrepid actors are ready for their close-ups, Smith starts cashing in on the porn clichÃ©s wonderfully.
There is a tenderness at the center of Zack and Miri that’s going to disappoint those hoping for a pseudo-porn flick. In fact, Smith handles the sex scene that Zack and Miri film for their porn in a manner that’s both tasteful and moving. It’s the inevitable feelings that arise between Zack and Miri that are the biggest let-down. Even the ”twist” that comes along is rather obvious. Fortunately, Smith rushes through this part so quickly that it’s not something that need be endured for long.
As with many comedies these days, a few of which star Rogen, there is a scene that is so disgusting and unnecessary that the humor it’s meant to induce is lost behind groans and gags. It’s brief, but memorable.
Rogen, who is building his career on the character of slacker with a heart, is adorable as Zack. Smith has repeatedly said that he envisioned Rogen in the role of Zack long before Rogen made it big with Knocked Up and Superbad. Nevertheless Rogen’s casting alone makes Zack and Miri into a Hollywood blockbuster. But it’s Banks as Miri who’s the real gem in the film. Fresh off her portrayal of Laura Bush in W., Banks is perky and dirty, equally comfortable with the boys but looking great in a skirt: every (straight) man’s fantasy.
Fans of Smith’s earlier films will be happy to see Jason Mewes – the Jay half of Jay and Silent Bob – as one of the other cast members in the porn. But the most exciting supporting roles go to the two who inspire Zack and Miri in the first place, a gay couple played by Justin Long and Brandon Routh. They are undeniably and jaw-droppingly funny. If this were a real porn, their scenes would be the equivalent of the money shot.