Sunday, November 09, 2008

Review: "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"

warning: spoilers (spoilage factor: about the same as coffee beans that have been dumped on porno actors during a shoot - oh, that would be a spoiler itself, wouldn't it? Oh well, just see the movie!)

It's a rare occasion that a comedy can get me out to the movie theatre these days. To put up with the lines, the price, the unreliable concession service, post-apocalyptic washrooms, stupid parents bringing small children to grotesquely inapropriate films, ringing cellphones, and inbreds talking throughout the flick, it's gotta have really cool won't-look-the-same-on-the-big-screen-tv-at-home SFX or it's got to be a truly special comedy or drama. "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" was just such a film. But then again, Kevin Smith movies are almost always worth going to the theatre to watch right away.

You've probably all heard/read the plot run-down before: longtime platonic friends and roommates Zack and Miri are short on cash and decide to, well, as the title implies, craft a piece of cinematic adult entertainment. Raunchy hilarity ensues.

It's obviously rooted in best-friends-of-the-opposite-sex-unknowingly-in-love-with-one-another romantic comedy films, but told from a typical Smith perspective of regular people trying to get by in a tough world (rather than the usual chick flick setup of glamourous people in enviable jobs frolicking in upscale settings) who may be deceiving themselves but who see the world in an honest, intelligent, frequently foul-mouthed, no-holds-barred kinda way. It's also likely a nod to Smith's own "Clerks" experience of putting together a film on a shoe-string budget. Initially there's also the looming presence of the momentous mediocrity of the highschool reunion that people allow to scar themselves that we saw in "Grosse Point Blank". And from time to time it has the behind-the-scenes feeling of "Boogie Nights".

The only downsides to the film were the sense in the pacing that it had been edited down a little awkwardly from some earlier, better cut (probably the result of the NC-17 battle with the US ratings authorities), and a shot of Jason Mewes' frontside that I really, really didn't want to see. At this point I'm hoping that when the DVD is released it'll include a version that feels more complete.

So why talk about a modern-day comedy on an SF-oriented site? Because it's a Kevin Smith film, and no Smith flick would be complete without a couple of sci-fi refences. He is a fanboy himself, after all. The most obvious (and frequently mentioned in other reviews) is Zack and Miri's initial vision to create a skinflick called "Star Whores". The costume tests for that segment were great, as was the speculation about sequels. But ultimately I thought their earlier brainstorming session for possible titles was a lot better. The SF reference scene that took the cake, however, had to be the Buck Rogers bit near the beginning. My wife, who loved "Zack and Miri", hadn't seen BR as a kid (any version - much less Universal's Gil Gerrard extravaganza that I grew up with) and couldn't quite figure out why I was laughing so hard at that point. Aside from the snide pop culture reference, the BR bit is even funnier when you remember what Twiki looked like.

You can't say much about the quality of the blue movie that Zack and Miri were cobbling together themselves, but Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" is good enough to see in the theatre.
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