'Zack And Miri,' Making Trouble In Some Ad Markets

Zack and Miri i i

Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen star in Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make A Porno. The Weinstein Co. hide caption

itoggle caption The Weinstein Co.
Zack and Miri

Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen star in Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make A Porno.

The Weinstein Co.
Movie Poster i i

The Zack and Miri movie poster; ads for the film have been rejected by some newspaper, TV and outdoor outlets because of their content. The Weinstein Co. hide caption

itoggle caption The Weinstein Co.
Movie Poster

The Zack and Miri movie poster; ads for the film have been rejected by some newspaper, TV and outdoor outlets because of their content.

The Weinstein Co.

Seth Rogen's latest film hasn't hit theaters yet, but a word in its title is already stirring up controversy.

The movie is called Zack and Miri Make a Porno; it's a romantic comedy about two friends who live together and find themselves down on their luck. Desperate to make quick cash, they decide to make an adult film together.

Writer-director Kevin Smith, known for films such as Chasing Amy, Clerks and Jersey Girl, says he had been thinking about making this film for over a decade.

"I always liked the idea of 'do-it-yourself porn'," Smith says. "Like the people who do it for reasons of exhibitionism, or to make a few bucks, but are doing it nonprofessionally, so to speak."

As for the title, Smith says it just kind of says it all. And he thought it sounded funny.

"Going in, I knew if you put 'porn' in the title you'll turn some people off," he says. "But I assumed the people who'd be turned off by that title were never coming to this movie to begin with, so I wasn't losing anything."

Then it came time to market the movie.

The Weinstein Co., which is releasing the film, submitted artwork for billboards and bus ads featuring photos of the film's stars fully clad but somewhat risque. The Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, quickly rejected them.

So, the company created a new ad campaign featuring stick-figure versions of the actors. "Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks made a movie so titillating that we can only show you these drawings," it reads.

And it features the title of the film.

Kevin Smith thought it was a brilliant idea. Others didn't see it that way.

"Zack and Miri cannot make a porno on my bus shelters," says Rina Cutler, a Philadelphia deputy mayor who refused to let the ads go up at her city's bus stops. "There really is just a question of the appropriateness of the word 'porno' in a public bus shelter," she says. Cutler didn't want parents to have to explain to their kids what the word means.

She wasn't alone. Across the country, more than a dozen newspapers and several TV stations refused to carry ads for the film.

Smith and the Weinstein Co. had to shorten the title to just Zack and Miri to get even their TV-friendly (read: toned-down) ads on some stations. And commercials running during L.A. Dodgers playoff games on Fox Sports were dropped after the team itself filed complaints.

Diane Levin, who wrote the book So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, says she was shocked by the ads she saw for the film in Boston.

"My expertise is with young children," Levin says. "I thought, they're going to see the stick-figure drawings and they're going to think 'Gee! this must be a movie for me!' "

But Smith, the film's writer, thinks people are overreacting. He thinks parents should be able to set their kids straight, if they ask, simply by saying, "Porno is a movie that's not for you. It's for grown-ups.'"

Zack and Miri star Seth Rogen says he was shocked by the backlash. There are posters for the horror film Saw V all over the place, he notes. They feature a character wearing a mask — made from another man's surgically removed face.

"No one complains about that!" Rogen says incredulously. "And our ads that have stick figures and the word 'porn' on it, that's causing a big ruckus!"

Rogen reminds those who are troubled by the campaign that his film is, after all, a romantic comedy, not an actual adult film.

And Smith notes that the film originally received an NC-17 rating, but he and the distributor appealed the ruling to the MPAA ratings board. Now, he says, the film has a milder R rating — and the filmmakers didn't make a single cut.

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