ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Crude Sexual Content including Dialogue, Graphic Nudity and Pervasive Language

ZMPorno poster

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Traci Lords, Jeff Anderson, Katie Morgan, Justin Long, Brandon Routh, Tyler Labine & Tom Savini

Kevin Smith is one of those filmmakers whose stories either work for you or they don’t. Some people love his dirty-minded movies with a heart of gold and others see him as a bit of a so-so storyteller. Personally, I’ll try everything this man does at least once. CLERKS II and RED STATE were his last two great films in my opinion as some of his output has been a tad lackluster in the last decade. ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO is a prime example of a movie that has spurts of comic brilliance, but ultimately falls victim to Smith sticking too close to a familiar formula playing out in predictable fashion.

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Zack and Miri have been friends since elementary school and live together strictly as roommates. The two have no interest in forming any kind of romantic relationship and sex is off the table. After circumstances get dire and they find unpaid bills stacking up to an insane degree, the two buy into a crazy idea of filming their own pornography and banking on it to save themselves from the impending possibility of being homeless. The process of making this no-budget adult film requires enlisting a crew of colorful characters (some of which are played by real-life porn stars). Zack and Miri’s friendship gets more complicated as they discover there might be unexpected feelings between them. The plot plays out in typical rom-com ways, even if the idea of making your own porn isn’t necessarily a staple in this genre.

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I’ll get the good qualities out first. Fortunately, there are a lot of positives in this flick. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks have great chemistry together. I bought them as lifelong friends and could understand why they wouldn’t necessarily want to risk screwing their friendship up with sex. They seem feed off each other and the cast members around them. The other performers include Craig Robinson, Jeff Anderson (who does not play his usual Randall character from CLERKS or anything resembling him). Jason Mewes steals the show in the role of a low-IQ, but sweet-natured porn star enlisted for Zach and Miri’s little endeavor. One of the best scenes in the film is in the opening 20 minutes and involves a hilariously graphic conversation with a briefly glimpsed Justin Long. This is the nicest thing I can say about this movie: Everything works perfectly in setting up the scenario and Smith’s witty dialogue is in full form…for the first 25 minutes or so. The rest of the movie doesn’t live up to how strong this film opens.

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Two main things keep ZACK AND MIRI from reaching potential greatness or even stacking up with better comedies in the new millennium. The story falls victim to the rom-com formula and there are stretches of the film that didn’t even get a chuckle out of me. From the start, everyone watching the movie pretty much knows where Zack and Miri will be at the end of the film and Smith doesn’t necessarily do anything to derail those expectations. To be fair, CHASING AMY and CLERKS II didn’t hold any surprises in this way either, but they did provide awesome plot threads and keep the viewer rolling with laughter. ZACK AND MIRI doesn’t do this as well. The handful of long stretches not containing a single laugh also put a damper on the whole scenario. It should also be noted this is a really dirty movie, as if you couldn’t guess that from the title. Smith fully pushes the R rating to its limits in sexual content and graphic dialogue, more so than in something as gross as CLERKS II.

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ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO isn’t Kevin Smith’s finest hour and it was intended to be the film that pushed him into more mainstream success. Instead, the film starts off very strong, then drags for a bit, and ends with a satisfying climax (pun fully intended). I had fun watching this film and it’s a good date movie, if your date doesn’t mind a whole lot of crude humor. The biggest issue is that the rest of the film couldn’t live up to the level of its opening 25 minutes. ZACK AND MIRI ends up being a decent rom-com weighed down by the two major problems already mentioned.

Grade: B-

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