November 6, 2008

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Zack and Miri Make a Porno (R)
Lifelong platonic friends Zack and Miri run out of cash and decide to make a movie to make money in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, a probably bad but thoroughly hilarious and delightful movie from Kevin Smith.

The title more or less says it all — Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) live together as roomies in an apartment for which they are behind on the rent as well as the water and electricity bills. After their high school reunion leaves them particularly down in the dumps, Zack builds on an idea he got from one of the reunion-goers and suggests they put out their own porn. After all, they have, thanks to a high school newsletter, the e-mails of about a thousand people they went to school with and who, he reasons, wouldn’t pay $20 to watch someone they went to high school with have sex?

This idea builds to include Delaney (Craig Robinson), Zack’s nearly broke fellow barista at the fake-Starbucks (he has the money to buy a camera); Lester (Jason Mewes), a very dumb actor who can, a-hem, be all he can be in a matter of seconds; Bubbles (Traci Lords — yes, that Traci Lords), whose nickname is directly related to her talent in a way I can’t describe; Barry (Rickey Mabe), a baby-faced actor possibly dumber than Lester, and Deacon (Jeff Anderson), who is asked to shoot the film based on his high school experience shooting basketball games. They approach the porno — which is at first called Star Whores — with a do-it-yourself attitude and a minimum amount of financing. In their favor: a willingness to have sex on camera. Working against them: the fact that Zack seems determined to keep anyone but him from having sex with Miri, a possible indicator of hidden depths in their relationship.

I am thoroughly willing to admit that parts of this movie are bad — Jeff Anderson (Randal of Clerks fame) can’t act, Smith sometimes puts too many words at once in his actors’ mouths and there is still something very first-film about the way he shoots. But so what — I laughed. I didn’t just laugh, I tried really hard not to laugh as loud as I wanted to laugh and ended up making snorty noises. I got a little cramp in my stomach. I laughed at things I can’t even begin to describe here because they stretch the bounds of what even an “R” rating allows.

Like all Kevin Smith movies, however, what really makes all the raunchy comedy work is the big gooshy sweet marshmallow heart at the center of the movie. The sex scene between Zack and Miri, when we finally get to it, is at first laugh-’til-you-puke funny but then as they finally get down to business, it turns completely charming and awww-able in a way that few movies ever are. While hitting on both the awkwardness and the doey-eyed True Love-ness of, well, doin’ it, the scene manages to come remarkably close to what sex actually is and be one of the most romantic scenes I’ve seen in a while.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno thoroughly fulfills the body-part-humor promise of its title, the goofy every-guy comedy you expect from its writer and the charm needed to pull the whole thing together without being off-putting. B

Rated R for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language. Written and directed by Kevin Smith, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is an hour and 41 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Dimension Films and The Weinstein Company.