Zack and Miri Make A Porno.
Okay, hands up who's watched a porno?
Oh, wait - doesn't work within this environment. I can't see if you've put your hands up, and there's the even worse possibility that your hands were already busy. Well, I'll assume you have - and thus you can go into this film with the appropriate level of knowledge regarding what a porno looks like.
At least, you’d think you would…
I’ll admit I’ve seen a few adult flicks, but I think Kevin Smith has seen some more interesting ones if this is anything to go by. He has a very enthusiastic cast, I think I’ll just leave it at that.
So onto the film:
The film isn’t especially good. Before I saw it (and I’m aware this review is months late, but Kevin Smith films don’t hit
In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign.
Still, I went to the cinema… and watched it… and deduced that it was vulgar and mawkishly sentimental.
At this stage, I should mention that I’ve seen every Kevin Smith film.
Clerks – good, but over hyped
Mallrats – good, but under hyped
Chasing Amy – Fantastic, raw and meaningful
Dogma – Flawed, but sporadically great
J&SBSB – Funny, but overall patchy
Clerks II – Okay, but too vulgar
Chasing Amy ranks as easily the best for me. It’s the one where he managed to marry humour and pathos equally. The others tried, but were either too vulgar… too sickly sweet… or just a step in the wrong direction.
This film is too vulgar… too sickly sweet… and a step in the wrong direction.
For me, the fatal flaw is Rogen. Firstly, he’s not a leading man. I’m not saying he isn’t funny, or he isn’t a decent actor, but he works best in a supporting role. There he can throw out jokes and have a little arc, yet doesn’t have to anchor an entire flick. When he tries to anchor the flick, it doesn’t work because he’s not a strong enough performer.
There’s also the improvisation. Smith, in the past, stuck to his scripts as much as possible. Here, he lets the actors cut loose… and really should have stuck to his script.
While I’m growing less enamoured with Apatow style flicks as they go along, the level of freedom he offers his actors leads to a certain amount of realistic dialogue. The trouble is that here, it feels fake and forced and not funny. Nowhere is this more true than in the first coffee-shop scene, where we have three Apatow actors ‘improvising’ and instead of being funny and naturalistic it’s just cruel and needlessly vulgar. Apatow has a way of making his characters be crude, but also identifiably human – Smith, flat-out cannot do that via improv. You get the sense that he doesn’t know when to cut them off and give them a bit of direction regarding the improv.
I have to say a few words about Elizabeth Banks, too. It’s well-known that Rosario Dawson had the role written for her, and that Banks jumped in. As a result, I think there was a problem fitting Banks into a
So we move onto the big-turning point.
A lot of people have problems with the choice Miri makes later on. I’ll add myself to the list. It is not believable. She plays a pathetic game that demonises her as a character… and then they have Zack run back to her. It’s just really bad-writing to create some dramatic tension. I know that it can be argued that Zack loves her despite her flaws, but the stunt she pulls is so malicious and petty that it inspires some thoughts of misogynist intent towards woman from Smith.
I don’t buy that he intended it to come across that way, but I don’t think you can deny that it has that feel. And it’s a shame, because up to now the female characters in his films have been the stronger members of the cast. Whether it’s Alyssa… or Bethany… or Justice – they were strong, together female characters. To go from that to having Miri pull a stunt that a fourteen year old cheerleader would pull is just not kosher.
The other performances are okay, even if there’s one moment with Jeff Anderson that is absolutely disgusting (frosty?) and another moment with Mewes that doesn’t add anything to the story or anything to the character.
Out of everyone on screen, Justin Long shines the most. He’s fantastic in his part, doing what no-one else on screen thinks of doing by creating a three-dimensional character. He’s on screen for a fraction of the film, yet he’s consistently hilarious as a ‘gay porn star’ while still refusing to make it into a stereotype. He plays the character so genuinely and so funnily that you really do think he’d be far better in the lead role of a Smith film than Rogen.
So, to sum up – it’s not as clever as it thinks it is; the vulgar stuff isn’t funny enough to justify it; the sentimental stuff is sickly sweet; the plot-twist is manipulative and needlessly cruel; and it’s just not a film that suggests Smith can do improv.
I give it two frostings out of five.