Zack and Miri Make a Porno review, Zack and Miri Make a Porno DVD review
Starring
Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, Justin Long
Director
Kevin Smith
Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Reviewed by David Medsker

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t is more than fair to say that there is very little range to Kevin Smith’s work, but when he releases something as entertaining as “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” it’s hard to complain about the results. Like his other movies, Smith still doesn’t have a feel for how – or when – to mix the sweet with the profane, but the fact that he manages to give the movie an ending that is both wholesome and suitable is not just impressive; it’s astounding.

Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are Zack and Miri, two dead-broke best friends who are up to their eyeballs in debt. Once their power and water are shut off, they go into crisis mode and try to figure out how to make some quick cash. After Miri makes a joke about turning tricks, Zack comes up with the idea of shooting a porno, and Miri, reluctantly, goes along with it, though both are wary of how this will affect their friendship. After some auditions and one horrific false start, the movie is on, though the shoot gets really complicated once Zack and Miri shoot their scene, and each becomes jealous of the other doing scenes with other members of the cast.

One wonders if Smith doesn’t jokingly call this movie “When Zack and Miri Made a Porno,” because Zack’s philosophy on how sex complicates everything is hauntingly familiar to a certain Nora Ephron-written, Billy Crystal/Meg Ryan movie. The endings to both movies are similar as well. Granted, that’s damn good source material, but Smith has never been one to need someone else’s source material. That said, he deserves credit for taking such a “dirty” concept and turning it into a plausible love story. Casting two porn stars (Traci Lords and the hilariously cute Katie Morgan) doesn’t hurt in the authenticity department, either.

There is no denying Rogen’s comedic sensibilities, and he has just enough vulnerability to pass for a romantic lead; the problem is that he plays Zack the same way he played Ben in “Knocked Up” and Dale in “Pineapple Express.” Smith must have a weakness for actors with limited range (Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson), but was smart enough to cast a female lead that can carry the weight, and Banks does just that. Smith is a bit clumsy in setting up Miri’s blossoming love for Zack (it happens way too soon), but the look on Banks’ face right before she and Zack shoot their sex scene is unforgettable. Likewise, her utter devastation later in the movie – deftly scored to the Pixies’ “Hey” – is the most palpable moment in any movie Smith’s ever done.

Of course, Smith wouldn’t be Smith if he didn’t take a few pot shots at his movie industry colleagues, and he delivers two jabs that a) explain exactly how he feels about “Superman Returns,” and b) will guarantee that he never makes a movie for DreamWorks as long as he lives. Ah, but that is what is so loveable about Kevin Smith. He’s been in the biz for 15 years, but he still approaches his movies as an outsider. “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” has the kind of ending that some studios will spend millions in market research to design, but it’s not a sellout; it’s the ending that the movie deserves. If only Smith had waited until later in the movie to set that ending up.


Two-Disc DVD Review:

Anyone that thinks Kevin Smith is anti-improv will be surprised when they pop in the two-disc release of “Zack and Miri,” because it’s loaded with alternate takes and ad libs from the entire cast. The off-the-cuff dialogue makes up a majority of the monstrous, 94-minute deleted scene reel, while “Gang Bang” features a nice collection of outtakes and bloopers, and “Seth vs. Justin” spotlights the two actors doing what they do best. Rounding out the impressive set is a 74-minute making-of featurette that covers everything from casting and production (including the infamous shit shot) to testing and rating battles, a collection of webisodes (“Money Shots”), and footage from the film’s panel at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

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