Rogen & Banks Save Smith’s “Zack & Miri”

R, 101 minutes, The Weinstein Company

It was evident to me about half way into Kevin Smith’s latest comedy, Zack & Miri Make A Porno, that he felt like taking a different type of approach at revealing the teddy bear that rests in his writing. As we all know, the first time he decided to show us his lighter, more lovable side was in Jersey Girl, an undeservedly panned romantic comedy that did a number on the psyches of both him and the film’s star, Ben Affleck. So after following that commercially trashed film with a safe, crowd-pleasing sequel to Clerks, the writer/director teams with two of the most talented comedic actors working today, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, and together they create what is perhaps the most heartwarming piece of raunchy comedy known to man. It is a very sneaky, somewhat masterful plan that Smith attempts to brew up here, trying to have the best of both worlds as he pleases his avid, dirty-mouthed followers and the heartfelt, sensitive lug that he is deep down. I have a feeling that it will be much easier for his aspirations to be accepted this time out, even if this is not nearly as good a film as Jersey Girl.

Zack and Miri are are lifelong friends in the truest sense of the term. They can recall every little detail about each other from any point in their lives, each of them knowing more about the other than they know about themselves. There’s hardly a second of time where they are not on screen at the same time in this film, and that is the single main reason why it never falls into any big holes to never recover. Rogen and Banks are more than terrific together as Zack and Miri, exuded such amazing comedic chemistry that they manage to give certain lagging points (and there are an unusual amount of them for a Smith screenplay) a shot of adrenaline. Rogen seems to be playing an extension of his character from the far superior film, Knocked Up, as a mid-late 20’s slacker who seems to be going nowhere with his life. In both films he is sort of faced with the fact that he must grow up or he will literally fade into homelessness, except in that film it was because he was a soon-to-be father, and here he simply wants to keep a roof over his head for he and Miri. After they attend their inevitably disastrous 10-year high school reunion, Zack proposes the idea of writing and directing a porn film to sell to their graduating class of 800, because anyone would buy it if they knew who was in it, right? Not having the money to pay anyone a decent amount of money to be in their film, Zack and Miri eventually come to the agreement that they will be the “stars”, having sex together for the first time, insisting that it will not come between friendship or create an awkward boundary. For the first half of the film, up until their “scene” together, Smith’s was nothing all that special for his standards, and it especially did not meet the high expectations, but there is that scene – it is such a poignant moment that changes the shape of the film, and it’s great to watch. Just experience it for yourself.

Although the film definitely gets better in it second half, there are still scatter shot bits of completely dull sequences, even including the dialogue, which is hardly ever an issue with a Smith film. Still, nothing can stop the actors from making Zack & Miri Make A Porno a good time at the movies, and in addition to the two leads there are plenty of funny performances. The consistently impressive Craig Robinson (Knocked Up, Pineapple Express) gets what is his heftiest role to date as the producer of the film, and he has a number of memorable moments. Smith regulars, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes do well with what they have as members of the crew, and the always appealing Justin Long turns in a semi-cameo howler of a performance. Let’s just say it’s good to know that Long and Smith became friends on the set of Live Free or Die Hard, because the actor brought a ton to his small role here and did more than most could have. I’m almost saddened that I couldn’t like this film more than I did, which was just fine enough and that’s it. The basic idea of it all is brilliant, and with a stronger screenplay, maybe one that focused just a tad more on the romance and less on the foul play, it could have been a movie to rival Smith’s career-best work, Chasing Amy. In the end it is what it is, a good comedy that is a lot better than most American efforts these days, minus mostly anything Apatow touches.

7/10

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3 Responses to “Rogen & Banks Save Smith’s “Zack & Miri””

  1. Robert Says:

    Nice writing, my friend. Very nice.

  2. Adam Says:

    I definately agree with you on this one. Nothing in the film was ever bad, I enjoyed watching it the whole time, especially Craig, Elizabeth, and Seth of course. The raunchy did outweigh the wonderful lighter points of the film. Hopefully any success in this movie will put him back in a mood to make another straight up romantic film like Jersey Girl (which i enjoy a whole lot more than most people). Thanks for your input.

  3. Ferguson Says:

    Thanks to both of you for reading. It is most appreciated.

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