Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen in Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Each film in the New Jersey Trilogy ranks in my top 20 films ever and writer/director Kevin Smith may give the best Q&A sessions of all time. So it goes without saying that I was excited about seeing the highly anticipated, as well as highly controversial, North American premiere of Zack and Miri Make A Porno at Fantastic Fest 2008 in Austin’s amazing Alamo Drafthouse. Zack and Miri represents a return to what Smith did best in films like Chasing Amy, hiding a touching romance inside of a script peppered with crude humor.

The two title characters, played by Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, are struggling to pay the bills and come to terms with their mediocre high school reputations. When they head to their high school reunion the two have a hilarious encounter with Miri’s high school crush Bobby Long (Brandon Routh), as well as his lover (Justin Long), an adult film star that makes his name in gay porn. Routh finds a way to balance an over the top argument with Long, who is so damn funny in the film that I will not roll my eyes next time I see an Apple commercial. Inspired by a chance to cash in on sexual exploits, Zack and Miri decide to… well, if you don’t know by now then maybe procreating shouldn’t be for you. The circumstances the porno place Zack and Miri in result in a sweet and sincere realization of love for each other.

Smith doesn’t pull punches in displaying vulgarity or nudity, even going so far as to let Jason Mewes display his manhood. Smith joked at the Q&A that the endowments of Mewes were exaggerated on-screen. The jokes come at a fast clip and I missed some of the dialogue after many of them because the audience was laughing so loud. There are moments that make it clear why the MPAA was threatening the View Askew family with an NC-17 rating, including one, how do we say it without truly spoiling it, “oh shit” moment. But in reality Zack and Miri isn’t doing anything that Trainspotting and Taking Lives didn’t do before it, as Smith pointed out in the Q&A afterwards. Maybe the members of the MPAA needs to star in Swallow My Cock-ucinno, the title of the hysterical porno in which Zack and Miri star. It might loosen them up like adult film star Katie Morgan in the film.

Seth Rogen, seemingly on his way to being sued for a monopoly of all things comedic in Hollywood, reminds us why he got so much praise in Knocked Up. Elizabeth Banks, who I first saw in Wet Hot American Summer, continues her climb up the comedic ladder and provides a likable character that everyone can relate to at one point in their life. The relationship between Rogen and Banks feels genuine, Mewes is hilarious as always, and Craig Robinson will have the crowd laughing in every scene that he’s in.

The Cast of Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Smith told the audience that he had intended to put George Carlin in the film before he passed away and it would have been great to see where he went with this type of a film. His cameos in Dogma and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back were highlights. Having said that, a minute of Carlin’s stand-up routine probably would have been just enough to get the MPAA to slap an NC-17 on the film for good.

If there’s one issue people may have with the movie, it would be that the resolution comes perhaps a bit too easy. Still, the ending is satisfying overall and offers a message that love can come out of the most fucked situations, literally.

Most people will walk away from Zack and Miri quoting all the jokes from the movie. Smith has proven once again that he can scribe some of the funniest dialogue in film. But the true achievement is how he is able to take a film with such a daring premise and craft it into a love story. It would have been easy to strictly focus on shock factor. Smith has both the self-respect and talent not to.

Writing is often autobiographical and Smith explained that Zack and Miri is a more entertaining interpretation of his time spent making Clerks. “The movie basically is, once you strip away the porn and the romance, how we made Clerks but we [Smith and producer Scott Mosier] didn’t fuck. The result is his best effort in quite some time and one that has an excellent chance to top the box-office when it gets a nationwide release. With Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith has made a romance well worth watching.


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