Shticky Stuff: 'Zack And Miri' And A Fluid Or Two

Seth Rogen as Zack and Elizabeth Banks as Miri hold an audition i i

Childhood friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) decide to make an "erotic re-imagining" of Star Wars as they struggle to solve their cash-flow problems. The Weinstein Company hide caption

itoggle caption The Weinstein Company
Seth Rogen as Zack and Elizabeth Banks as Miri hold an audition

Childhood friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) decide to make an "erotic re-imagining" of Star Wars as they struggle to solve their cash-flow problems.

The Weinstein Company

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

  • Director: Kevin Smith
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

Almost NC-17, for, umm, obvious reasons.

Zack and Miri check out a possible 'actor' i i

Ready for your close-up?: Zack and Miri promise to not let sex get in the way of their friendship, but, predictably, the two end up more intimate than they had imagined. The Weinstein Company hide caption

itoggle caption The Weinstein Company
Zack and Miri check out a possible 'actor'

Ready for your close-up?: Zack and Miri promise to not let sex get in the way of their friendship, but, predictably, the two end up more intimate than they had imagined.

The Weinstein Company

Like some misbegotten offspring of Nora Ephron and Larry Flynt, writer-director Kevin Smith is possessed by one overpowering insight: All When Harry Met Sally really lacked was a few anal-sex jokes.

And so Smith provides all the backdoor humor any reasonable moviegoer could handle in his latest ode to raunch 'n' romance, the lively but predictable Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

If the title seems self-explanatory, it doesn't reveal just how far the director will go to elicit a shocked guffaw with this farce, which was very nearly rated NC-17.

The title characters are two childhood friends, still platonic pals a decade after graduating from high school. Slobby Zack (Seth Rogen) and pretty Miri (Elizabeth Banks, last seen as Laura Bush in W.) share no-hope jobs and a crummy apartment in frigid Pittsburgh.

When the story begins, Zack has no plans, and Miri has only one: to seduce her teenage crush at their 10th high-school reunion. As Miri slobbers over Bobby (Superman star Brandon Routh), Zack chats with a guy he doesn't recognize. Brandon (Justin Long) turns out to be a gay porn star — and Bobby's boyfriend.

The news is humiliating for Miri, but great fun for Zack, who's clearly the director's alter ego. Zack gets to discuss gay sex — a Smith fixation — with Brandon. And when the penniless roommates' utilities are shut off, Brandon's career inspires Zack to propose a way to make some cash. Improbably, Miri agrees.

Since Zack (like Smith) is obsessed with Luke, Leia, Han and Darth, he suggests an "erotic re-imagining" titled Star Whores. That scheme proves too ambitious, so Zack, Miri and their cast — including Smith regular Jason Mewes and two actual porn veterans, Traci Lords and Katie Morgan — settle for a basic X-rated scenario, shooting it after hours at the coffeehouse where Zack works.

Amid the many complications, Zack has one overriding concern: penning a script that doesn't require Miri to have sex with anyone but him. Could this be love?

Well, duh. Most of Smith's movies pit adolescent bedroom and bathroom humor against sentimental tales of concealed longing. Like Ephron, the director believes that men and women are fundamentally incompatible, but that that ol' demon love forces them together anyway.

Once, with Jersey Girl, Smith tried to play his romanticism straight. When that flopped, he returned to his earlier formula, upping the gross-out ante with Clerks 2 (which featured off-screen bestiality) and now Zack and Miri, whose major outrage is of the scatological sort — and shown on-screen).

Crudity aside, what separates Zack and Miri from Smith's smarter films is that the director's themes have congealed into shtick. In Clerks, Chasing Amy and even Dogma — well, in its first half — Smith seemed to be working out issues that were genuine and deeply felt. Now he's just churning out sequels.

Married, a father and pushing 40, Smith is no longer a trustworthy chronicler of 20-something slackers. He still can devise an impressively gamy set piece, but he's misplaced the humanity of his best work. In the spirit of Star Whores, his latest film could be retitled Clerks III: Attack of the Cloner.

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