Zack and Miri Make a Porno

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Kevin Smith is one of the original “bromantic” comedy writers and directors. He also has the classic rags to riches story. In 1994, Smith made a simple, low-budget, black-and-white movie called “Clerks” that quickly formed a word-of-mouth cult following. Flash forward to “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” Smith’s newest film. The story revolves around two best friends, Zack and Miri, who find themselves in a financial crisis that soon becomes even more dire when their utilities are shut off. Their solution? Film a porno and sell it.

Much like Smith’s own experience of filming “Clerks,” Zack and Miri film a movie at their workplace with no budget, a cast of friends and hockey sticks as mic booms. There are many other subtle references to “Clerks,” but this is far from a bad thing. In fact this is what makes Zack and Miri so good. After a few bombs (a boring, mushy “Jersey Girl” and a very shock-and-humor-based, subpar “Clerks II”) Smith needed to figure out what got him where he is today, and that’s the original “Clerks.”

During the time Kevin Smith strayed from his wonderfully raunchy films with a moral centered on love (like “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy”) a new force arrived on the scene: Judd Apatow. Apatow quickly made a name for himself with similar “bromantic” comedies like “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” and his canceled TV show “Freaks and Geeks”. And something tells me that Apatow had a hand in this film. This is not just because of all the familiar Apatow veterans that appear in the film, like Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks and Craig Robinson (who plays Darryl in “The Office” and Bobby Shad in “Walk Hard”), but also because of a similar approach. Smith returns to his old MO by taking a very R-rated comedic route that ultimately ends in the broken tension of unrequited love. Oh, and it’s quite the R-rated comedic route. Smith and his production team had to fight for an R-rating several times. The MPAA gave the film an NC-17 rating twice after two sets of edits until the appeal finally went through for the R-rating. Will audiences ever get to see that deleted material? Hello, DVD special features!

There are a few missed marks in “Zack and Miri”, however. Although Banks and Rogen’s on-screen chemistry is far stronger than Brian O’Halloran and Rosario Dawson’s in “Clerks II”, it still winds up seeming a little contrived. Also, the first 20 minutes of the movie were way too slow and made me nervous for a “Jersey Girl” flashback. The movie picks up with a wonderful high school reunion with unexpected cameos like that of Kenny Hotz, star and creator of Canadian show turned Comedy Central show, “Kenny vs. Spenny”. All in all, the movie is much more consistent than recent Kevin Smith ventures. And I’ll give you five dollars if you can find a more blunt title for a movie this year.

Grade: B

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