DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Add Comment 22 February 2009 by Joe Galm
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At the risk of over-qualifying the man, Kevin Smith's directorial "canon" is, at the very least, an interesting exception to standard Hollywood fare. They are not well crafted (ever) and the primary source of humor seems to be inside jokes - two traits not indicative of popularity. Nonetheless, his output remains steady, largely due to a swarming cult following. DVD releases seem to be his friend. His pictures never put up great numbers at the box office yet remain in the public spotlight for years; a testament to his following. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, his latest, performed similarly though under somewhat unusual circumstances. Given the inherent controversy or including the word "porno" in its title, it was privy to extra publicity. Not all publicity is good though and the movie only performed modestly, grossing $31.4 million after peaking at 2,735 screens. The numbers seem fair for Smith but it grossly underperformed compared to star Seth Rogen's other recent leading roles. Still, Zack and Miri is expected to perform well amongst the home-viewing crowd.

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At the heart of the film is a relationship - one that bends, breaks, and mends all at the convenience of the 101 minute run time. Any investment in the characters is largely due to the nature of the actors themselves. Zack (Rogen) and his long-time friend and roommate Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are both well suited for their roles; Rogen especially is no slouch at playing, well, a slouch. The two thesps have worked together before and their chemistry is believable enough despite their vastly different "looks". As evident by the title, their financial shortcomings lead them to the inevitable: making a self-made, self-starring pornographic film. Typical jokes ensue.

As a whole, the movie is pretty bare bones, though Smith's lack of experimentation is of no surprise. The boundaries he pushes are not of cinema but crassness. Zack and Miri only differs from his usual outputs by taking the topic of sex, which is often reduced to a conversational topic, and bringing it to the forefront of the picture. The results are poor, failing to surpass or distinguish itself from other lewd genre outputs (genre meaning comedy, not porn). Minimal musings on the complications of interjecting sex into a relationship are present but this comes with the territory. Really, the only audacity shown is in the film's driving pulse - showing a porn's production within MPAA confines. In that, the limits of content still aren't convincingly pushed. It is evident that the cast and crew enjoyed themselves for what it's worth. I hardly see that as a positive in a critical sense though.

Distributor: MGM

Cast: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, Ricky Mabe, Craig Robinson, Katie Morgan and Jeff Anderson.
Director/Screenwriter: Kevin Smith
Producer: Scott Mosier
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Rating: R on appeal for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language
Running time: 101 min.

Extras:

Special Features

One of the reasons for Smith's success is his direct, personable nature, which the extras reflect greatly. For as much as I disliked the actual movie I was that impressed with the special features. I wasn't particularly entertained by them, but applaud their inclusiveness and how they reflect on the picture itself. For this reason I actually recommend the two disc edition to fans of the film.

Unlike the quickly pieced together "making of" shorts that are so commonplace these days, Zack and Miri's is over an hour long and quite comprehensive. "Popcorn Porn" deals with the particulars most applicable to all of Smith's films, namely casting and writing. It explores the picture's progress from start to finish and is largely shown from the perspective of our director. It's in "Money Shots" that the actors get more of an opportunity for their voices to be heard. The series of webisodes showcases the cast on and around the set and acts as a testament to their enjoyment in working on the project.

Other minor featurettes include a humorous Q&A segment from 2008's Comic-Con, outtakes, deleted scenes and the like.

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