A comedy with some balls


Kevin Smith has a right to be pretty bitter right now.

For years, he’s been blending raunch and romance with equal measure, to middling box office results. From his grungy little breakthrough, “Clerks,” in 1994, to the polished “Chasing Amy” to the not-as-bad-as-it’s-rumored-to-be “Jersey Girl,” Smith has never shied from the messy sexual side of relationships in dialogue that some of the closest couples dare not discuss.

Meanwhile, writer/director Judd Apatow snuck into the kingdom and stole the crown, basically covering the very same turf in films such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Yet again, sex and sentimentality collide with generally hilarious, heartfelt results in his latest “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” which takes the standard romantic comedy and tarts it up with g-strings, thigh highs and body glitter.

Apatow mainstay Seth Rogan plays Zack and “W.’s” Elizabeth Banks is his platonic roommate Miri, two 20-something slackers who are reminded at their 10-year high school reunion just how little they have to offer the world a decade after their departure.

And if the hysterical humiliations they suffer during the reunion don’t drive the point home to them, then the return to their dingy Monroeville, Pennsylvania apartment – where the heat, electricity and water have just been shut off – should do the trick.

In an act of desperation they embark on the eponymous mission (in a plot very similar to last year’s Jeff Bridges film, “The Amateurs”) in order to cough up the cash needed to keep them off the streets.

As typical of a Kevin Smith comedy, the film comes from a very personal place and it’s not long before the smut is swept up in sentimentality. Just as “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was really a travelogue of his brush with mainstream Hollywood, “Zack and Miri” (as it’s been advertised for our prurient television audiences) is Smith’s love letter to making movies. It just happens that the movies in this feature typically end with a money shot.

But just as Smith assembled the cast of “Clerks” with his pals from his Jersey neighborhood, Zack and Miri enlist a number of participants from their inner circle to help bring their bump-and-grind opus to life.

Included in the cast are Smith standbys Jason Mewes (who boldly pulls a full monty and who always brings the funny) and original “Clerk” Jeff Anderson. Smith also has the smarts to include scene-stealing “Office” mate Craig Robinson, rehabbed porn princess Traci Lords and Katie Morgan, who you may remember from such memorable turns in “Big Bottom Sadie,” “Whore of the Rings” and “Busty Beauties 20” (and about 200 other similarly titled films…if you care to “research” them).

Smith also nabbed Justin Long, another go-to laugh-getter, whose cameo in the film will forever erase any annoying Mac ad image you may have of him.

It will come as little surprise that our two leads become romantically involved when called upon to perform their climactic scene (meant in every sense of the word). And the final act of the film deals with the awkwardness that can follow that moment where friends decide to take their relationship one step further (normally, though, it’s not done in front of a handful of onlookers and a rolling video camera… unless you’re a Hilton).

And this is where Smith – and Apatow, and John Hughes, for that matter – typically falter. For the male leads, there are plenty of bulls-eye masculine observations, while leaving the women with very little room to move outside their scripted confines. It’s not that Banks does not try, she radiates much the same way Rosario Dawson did in “Clerks II.” But Smith’s more comfortable giving his gals equally foul-mouthed dialogue that makes them “just one of the guys,” and then turning them into jealous emotional Jello when more complex matters arise.

The entire plot itself is based nowhere close to reality, even given the current Warhol-intuited “15 minutes of fame” culture in which we live, and Miri just seems way too together to fall for such a slovenly mess such as Zack, much less agree to let herself be filmed having sex with him to be mass marketed.

And honestly, with porn so easily accessible online, do they really think their little homegrown DVD is going to be their financial salvation?

But those minor grievances aside, “Zack and Miri” has just enough cheer to overcome its more flaccid moments. And if he can enlist a female writer for his next feature that could solidify his lady characters of his next film, Smith may be able to not only satisfy his audience throughout, but also provide them with, appropriately, a happy ending.

~ by usesoapfilm on November 4, 2008.

2 Responses to “A comedy with some balls”

  1. Good day!

    Although not exactly relating to the thread please allow me, dear friend, to tell you of the newest home of British comedy on the online.

    English For Dirty Foreigners is the only show on the internets that will lie to you outrightly about British language, traditions, customs and stuffs.
    Oh yes, we have many stuffs.


    Come for the comedy.
    Stay for the hilarity.

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