Zack & Miri Make a Porno (The Weinstein Company, R)

film_zack-miri_sm.jpgSuspension of disbelief is not really something that is given an opportunity to occur here.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve liked Kevin Smith and his films enough over the years that even when he makes one that’s not so great (i.e., Jersey Girl), despite recognizing that that it isn’t very good, I’m much more forgiving with him than I would be any other director who might have made the same movie, and even find myself kind of enjoying his sub-par efforts. So much the stranger, then, that I didn’t really like his new movie, Zack & Miri Make a Porno, which is the best idea he’s had in almost a decade.

Zack & Miri is about two lifelong platonic friends, played by Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, respectively, who are facing eviction and already have their water and heat shut off. The pair decides to make a porn flick to pay the bills, the logic being that even if no one else in the world buys it, everyone they went to high school with will surely want to see their old classmates fucking and shell out for it (Zack has the idea after meeting the gay porn star boyfriend of one of his classmates at his 10-year reunion). That’s a funny enough idea and, coupled with Smith’s legendary ear for vulgar dialogue, it seems like Zack & Miri would have to be a winner. The problem is that Smith has become more and more sappy as he’s gotten older, and it does not at all serve this specific film well (nor did it the ending of Clerks 2).

Aside from the great concept that more or less went to waste, Zack & Miri has a great cast that goes to waste, too. It’s well documented at this point that I love Rogen and Banks (The 40-Year-Old Virgin alums, both), as well as Craig Robinson (of The Office and Knocked Up), Traci Lords (of real porn and Cry-Baby), and Brandon Routh (the otherwise MIA Superman from Superman Returns). Jason Mewes is present in his first non-Jay role for Smith, in which he does just fine; he makes you forget about Jay, odd as it might seem. What’s strange is that my favorite performance in the movie comes from Justin Long, whom I don’t usually like; he plays the aforementioned gay porn star, and is very funny in his handful of scenes. But the problem here is that the Smith dialogue sounds kind of unnatural from what are by and large Apatow players; Smith regulars Mewes and Jeff Anderson aside, only really Banks and Long sell their dialogue; everyone else sounds very mannered and fake.

What’s worse is that suspension of disbelief is not really something that is given an opportunity to occur here. We’re supposed to believe that the otherwise respectable Zack and Miri are so hard up for money that they’d make a porn to pay their bills, and yet they somehow manage to get advances on their paychecks and borrow money from their friends to buy the costumes and sets to make their amateur porn. If borrowing money was an option, why didn’t they, you know, borrow money to pay their water or gas bills? And there’s all kinds of inconsistencies like that that make it pretty much impossible to give yourself over to the world of this film.

On top of all of that, Zack & Miri just feels really dated, too, like it was a not-so-good gross-out comedy from the late ’90s or so. Maybe Smith was just looking for a vehicle to come up with more funny porn film names like what brought him one of the greatest scenes in Clerks, and didn’t realize that the vehicle that he created for this purpose has a lot more potential than he might have expected. | Pete Timmermann

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