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With: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, Jeff Anderson, Brandon Routh, Justin Long, Tom Savini, Gerry Bednob, Jennifer Schwalbach, Tisha Campbell-Martin
Written by: Kevin Smith
Directed by: Kevin Smith
MPAA Rating: R on appeal for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language
Running Time: 101
Date: 09/07/2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Smut Above

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For his eighth feature film, writer/director Kevin Smith appears to have repeated the first section of his career. Recently, he sequelized his first film Clerks and created a Mallrats-sized flop with Jersey Girl, and now he has gone and made his most mature and romantically affecting film since Chasing Amy. As its title would suggest, Zack and Miri Make a Porno has its share of vulgar humor. It's not long before the credits end that Zack (Seth Rogen) has borrowed a hand-warmer from his best friend Miri (Elizabeth Banks) and shoved it down his pants, creating an uncomfortable, panic-inducing, burning smell. Not to worry, though. Zack's equipment continues to work just fine for the upcoming porno.

Zack and Miri have been best friends and/or roommates since grade school, and they view each other like siblings, or perhaps as an old husband and wife. Zack wanders sleepily into the bathroom and bolts out suddenly when Miri screams from the toilet. They attend their high school reunion, where Miri has her sights set on revenge sex with the handsome Bobby Long (Brandon Routh), who picked on her in high school. But Zack has a more interesting meeting with Bobby's new lover, Brandon (Justin Long), a gay porn star. Not long after, Zack and Miri's meager finances dwindle to a dangerous low and they agree to shoot a porno for a quick buck. They recruit the usual band of misfits: Delaney (Craig Robinson) is Zack's co-worker in a coffee shop and agrees to be a producer. Lester (Jason Mewes), Bubbles (former porn star Traci Lords) and Stacey (current porn star Katie Morgan) sign on as talent, with Deacon (Jeff Anderson -- no relation to me) operating the camera. Tom Savini plays a local sleaze who rents them a work space.

I won't go into any more details except for the one you're expecting; when Zack and Miri actually do the deed on camera, they fall in love for real. Smith plays the moment with unexpected tenderness, and -- even more surprising -- the playback reveals that making love for the camera is far more boring than fucking for the camera. Zack and Miri Make a Porno takes a bit too long to wrap up the complex emotions loosed by the magic act, and Smith prolongs things by using traditional romantic comedy tricks; the couple refuses to speak the truth to one another. But it all works. Rogen and Smith seem to be a match made in heaven, cheerful misfits comfortable with their sexual shortcomings and even more comfortable with their knowledge of sex jokes, comic books and sci-fi (see if you can spot the Superman and Star Wars references). And the delightful Banks -- a veteran of the Rogen/Judd Apatow factory -- conjures an equal amount of relaxed, erotic humor and romantic warmth; she's perhaps the movie's soul. Zack and Miri wears as its skin a barrage of sick, often hilarious jokes, but what I remember after having seen the film a few weeks ago is the honest sweetness at its heart.

DVD Details: The two-disc set from the Weinstein Company comes with, no kidding, 94 minutes of deleted scenes! And that's only on the first disc. The second disc has a making-of feature (74-minutes), webisodes, the Comic-Con press conference, 13 minutes of outtakes and bloopers, and an improv reel with Seth Rogen and Justin Long. There's no director commentary track, which leads me to guess that there will be a super-deluxe edition sometime soon.

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