3 Stars
Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 101 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

There’s no denying it, the economy is in the shitter. And if things are tough for a $250K a year wannabe entrepreneur like “Joe the Plumber,” think how bad they are for… ”Zack the Barista.” Zack (Seth Rogen) lives with his best friend Miri (Elizabeth Banks) in a run-down Pittsburgh neighborhood, and both are in dire financial straits culminating in the turning off of their water and electricity. Luckily for them, they have a fortuitous encounter with an actor who makes movies with “all male casts” (a not altogether unbelievable Justin Long) and hit upon the idea to solve their own personal recession by making a porno.

This you already know. You also already know that sex sells, and those scoffing at the proffered scenario should realize that it doesn’t matter if the guy looks like, well, Seth Rogen so long as you’ve also got someone who looks like Elizabeth Banks. And so, the newly inspired pair recruits Zack’s friend Delaney (Craig Robinson) to produce, a cameraman (Jeff Anderson), a precocious cocksmith (Jason Mewes) and a couple of pros (Katie Morgan and Traci Lords) to flesh out the production. After coming up with the name (“Star Whores”), the crew is finally ready to start their boners.

The inexperienced production suffers from the expected setbacks (not the least of which would be that there already is a “Star Whores”), but also the allegedly more important issue of whether or not Zack and Miri can actually have the emotionless, attachment-free sex the script calls for without ruining their friendship. What’s more, can the two fuck other people without making their erstwhile best friend jealous?

“Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is better than Smith’s previous forays into romantic comedy (“Chasing Amy,” “Jersey Girl”), though it suffers from the same handicaps. The movie’s front-loaded with puerile, junior high humor (and, admittedly, several laugh out loud moments), which is fine, but all this is still followed by an increasingly awkward and clichéd third act. To Smith’s credit, he tries to ratchet down the schmaltz, concentrating on his strengths: dick and poop jokes (one memorable poop joke in particular) and mostly laying off the schmaltz.

The problem with Smith’s inability to write realistic female characters remains, however. Miri’s basically a guy, which wouldn’t matter if she was framed by fully realized women, but Morgan and Lords are about as nuanced as you’d expect a couple of porn stars to be. Miri isn’t as bad as Alyssa the Light Switch Lesbian from “Chasing Amy,” but the premise – that she somehow experiences sexual and romantic awakening while fucking her best friend on camera in front of strangers, for money – is almost as insultingly unrealistic.

“Zack and Miri” is also probably Smith’s least fanboy-ish effort, next to “Jersey Girl.” There’s little of the nerd minutiae that non-geeks find so tedious about the older View Askewniverse films (aside form the obvious “Star Wars” jokes). The good news is that Anderson and Mewes make triumphant returns. The former Jay holds it back admirably, and Anderson is just fine in an understated role. He also has the movie’s best line (“White supremacist.”).

I admit, I haven’t given a Kevin Smith movie a positive review since “Clerks,” but “Zack and Miri” earns a guarded “thumbs-up,” to coin a phrase. There are plenty of cringeworthy moments toward the end, but Rogen, Banks, Mewes, and Anderson are funny enough without straying too far into Nerdlandia that it’s nearly enough to make you ignore Smith’s utter density regarding the fairer sex.

Posted on October 31, 2008 in Reviews by

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