The Austin Chronicle

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Rated R, 101 min. Directed by Kevin Smith. Starring Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, Ricky Mabe, Craig Robinson, Katie Morgan, Jeff Anderson.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 31, 2008

Smith’s new film proves that even though you may be able to take the boy out of Jersey, there’s still no chance of sidetracking the filmmaker’s dominant id. Setting Zack and Miri Make a Porno in Pittsburgh, across the Jersey state line, has not diluted Smith’s distinctive comedic raunch in the least. The film’s title alone should make that clear. However, there is also a sweetness to Zack and Miri, which, when combined with the film’s perfect casting, makes this Smith’s strongest film since 1997’s Chasing Amy. A romantic comedy, the film is so faithful to the standards of the Hollywood form as to be almost conventional – but for its obvious porno and scatology. Though it’s the films of Judd Apatow (a fellow traveler in the realm of sweet raunch) that brought Rogen’s unique leading-man-manqué talents to Smith’s attention, in Rogen, Smith has also found a screen soulmate. Co-star Banks, too, is a veteran of the Apatow world, and her charming turn here as Miri, when combined with her current dramatic performance as Laura Bush in W., is certain to provide the wide-ranging actress her breakthrough moment. Smith combines these Apatow players (Robinson, as well, comes from that crew) with some of his own regulars (Mewes and Anderson) and some knowledgeable porn stars of today and yesteryear (Lords and Morgan) to create an ensemble that’s beautifully in tune with his aesthetic. Zack (Rogen) and Miri, best friends since high school, live together platonically in Pittsburgh, though the unpaid bills are stacking up and things are getting kind of drafty since the heat’s been turned off. At their high school reunion, an encounter with a pair of male porn actors (played hilariously by Superman Brandon Routh and Mac shill Justin Long – characters fully deserving a sequel of their own) provides Zack and Miri with an idea of a way to raise some cash: Make their own porn film. They figure their friendship is strong enough to withstand sexual contact for the sake of the rent, but in true romantic-comedy fashion, their onscreen carnality leads to offscreen epiphanies about the true nature of their love for each other. Awww. Meanwhile, in an unexpurgated Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland style, Zack and Miri draft a fun little team of makeshift filmmakers and actors to shoot their movie. This creation of community is part of the film’s overall warmth and bonhomie. Smith gives the appearance of wanting to provoke, but along with his smuttiness, he wears his heart on his sleeve. (See Screens feature "For Mature Audiences Only," Oct. 31, for an interview with Kevin Smith.)

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