Genius Products // 2008 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski (Retired) // February 9th, 2009
"What would you do to get out of debt?"
Making his contribution to the maddening schluppy guy / hot girl romantic comedy tradition, Kevin Smith tries to convince us that amateur porn production breeds sweet romance. If you're a straight guy who believes you can find sex and romance with your hot girl best friend by persuading her to do you on camera for money, then climb aboard. I'm guessing the rest of us already got off the Kevin-Smith's-advice-on-women train back at the Chasing Amy stop. Unfortunately, the implausible romance isn't the biggest of Zack and Miri Make a Porno's problems...
Said schluppy guy and hot girl are Zack (Seth Rogen, Freaks and Geeks) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks, W.), long time best friends and roommates who have so far managed to avoid sucking face. Then one chilly Pittsburgh winter they get woefully behind paying their bills. The two decide to plunge into the waters of amateur porn production, after being inspired by a former classmate (Brandon Routh, Superman Returns) and his gay porn star boyfriend (Justin Long, Dodgeball) at a high school reunion. Since they have dead-end jobs, little dignity, and no living relatives to embarrass, they figure it's time to bang each other on camera for money.
After recruiting friends to serve as producer (Craig Robinson, The Office) and cameraman (Jeff Anderson, Clerks), Zack and Miri round up a ragtag bunch of co-stars. They hire a creepy dude with a nice body named Lester the Molester (Jason Mewes, Clerks); a stripper who doesn't mind anal sex, Stacey (real life porn star Katie Morgan, Dancing with the Porn Stars); a dominatrix who can blow bubbles from an unexpected place, Bubbles (former porn star Tracy Lords, Cry-Baby); and a timid local actor who's willing to play Bubbles' butt boy, Barry (Ricky Mabe, Trailer Park of Terror). While dashing around to get the sets, costumes, script, and equipment ready, Zack and Miri also worry that their sex scene together might change the nature of their platonic friendship...
We'll go through the motions of a standard review in a moment, but in all honesty there's really only one question you need to ask yourself to determine whether you'll enjoy Zack and Miri Make a Porno:
Do you love ass?
It should become apparent to you, soon after starting Zack and Miri Make a Porno, that Kevin Smith has a passionate romance with the human ass. He loves the asshole. He loves everything that comes out of it and he loves the idea of sticking stuff into it. He loves poop and he loves farts, and he loves imagining all kinds of wacky scenarios for these substances. If Kevin Smith could marry an ass -- not the human being attached to it, but just the ass -- I'm pretty sure he would. At its core, Zack and Miri is Smith's ode to ass, so if you don't want to spend 101 minutes of your life absorbing such an ode, just skip this one.
Now it's not that I'm shocked that a Kevin Smith movie has some fart jokes. Smith fans have always known that there's a side to this director's sense of humor that is stuck at that 12-year-old boy phase. Unfortunately, he's let that side run rampant through this script leaving little room for anything else. Even the "romantic" scenes here are submerged in this cesspool of bodily-function gags.
But let's assume for the moment you do love ass. What's the rest of the movie like? It's definitely not sexy and the aforementioned romance is pretty hard to believe, but it does have a few things going on in the "redeeming social value" department (to put it in porn litigation terms). Some of the performances are pretty good. Robinson, as always, provides some laughs and Mewes is surprisingly good as Lester. He's ditched the Jay haircut and with his shorter locks and lean build (he has a lot of naked scenes!) he reminded me of a poor man's James Marsters. Long and Routh, on the other hand, are not very funny and do little to alleviate the film's aura of low-level homophobia. Despite a lack of chemistry, Banks and Rogen both do well individually. Banks makes the underwritten Miri as likeable and substantive as possible, without too much help from Smith's screenplay. She's got a couple of funny moments, but it's really Rogen who salvages comedy from this script with his energy and unique delivery. Smith writes him a few independently funny lines, like this one:
* On how guys masturbate: "Give me two popsicle sticks and a rubber band and I'll find a way to fuck it, like a filthy McGuyver!"
But it's Rogen's comic timing and growly-voiced enunciation that transform ordinary lines like these into real laugh-out-loud moments:
* On why he can't get a job in a restaurant: "No one wants me around
their food. Would you eat food I gave you?"
* To start the action in his coffeeshop porn scene: "Let's fuck on these beans."
Smith also lives up to his reputation for enjoyable references to other films. Zack's ice hockey team is called the Monroeville Zombies (don't forget: this is the Pittsburgh area!), some porno dealings take place "behind the green door," and we also get a long segment of the film solely devoted to imagining a porno spoof of Star Wars. I'm sure it's been done before, but I was amused by the dildo lightsabers and whatnot...
The other category in which Zack and Miri performs well is special features. This two-disc release is crammed with bonus material, offering a whopping 75 minutes of deleted and extended scenes on the first disc and a whole mess of other extras on the second. As expected, this cornucopia of special features is tedious to sit through, if you didn't like the film, but fans of Zack and Miri should have lots of fun with these. The deleted and extended scenes fill in more details in the plot, explaining things like the origin of the granny panties and that mysterious stain on the side of Zack's car. We also get more on the misery of Pittsburgh winters and more romance between the porno co-stars. Plus, quite a few of the script's dirtier lines are revived in these deleted scenes, including "Let me ask you something: what does a scrotum taste like?" and alternate porn titles like "Sperms of Endearment" and "Schindler's Piss." Do yourself a favor and stop watching the deleted scenes when you get back to Long and Routh at the end. They do a dull scene here that really seems like it will never end. Also coming in at 75 minutes is the exhaustive "Popcorn Porn: The Making of Zack and Miri." We hear a lot from Smith himself on this one. He talks about courting Rogen, about the decision to cast porn stars who would feel comfortable with being naked, and about how he fought the MPAA tooth and nail to get that R rating. You won't be surprised to learn that the scene Smith was willing to go down with the ship for was all about ass -- in fact, when we see him take the mic at the wrap party, he goes into this monologue about hemorrhoids! The 13 minutes of outtakes are pretty standard fare, and 7 minutes of "Seth vs. Justin: The Battle for Improvisational Supremacy" is just what it sounds like. There's a lot more talk about scrotum taste in there, and I guess Justin Long wins the battle when Seth Rogen can't stop giggling like a schoolgirl. The Comic-Con panel runs for 23 minutes and is one of the more enjoyable extras. The cast is there with Smith and everyone is in a lively mood. Smith makes fun of his fans, as usual, and Rogen jumps on board, but at least it's less awkward to watch on DVD than in person. The webisodes were made during production and total up to 48 minutes and are pretty amusing -- Ben Affleck gets made fun of, Morgan talks about keeping her interests in sex and in dogs separate, and Rogen shares that the two people he'd most like to see doin' it in a porno are Mother Theresa and Winston Churchill. These webisodes also feature Mewes and Mabe doing PSAs modeled on those "The More You Know" spots. My favorite: "In the southern hemisphere, guys ejaculate counter-clockwise." There's lots of behind-the-scenes goofing around here that's pretty fun, and we end these webisodes with a skit about "fake jizz."
In terms of picture and sound quality, it seems totally unnecessary to spring for the Blu-Ray disc in this case. The special features are identical, and the picture quality on this standard DVD is plenty sharp for what there is to look at: depressing apartment interiors, depressing winter exteriors, the Starbucks-esque coffeshop where most of the film takes place, and Jason Mewes' ass. Despite these disheartening images, Smith has definitely developed his visual style considerably since Clerks. Now he moves the camera sometimes or makes something pretty:
On the feature, the dull palette of browns is rendered realistically and the image is crisp. It's much less crisp on the extras, which look like they were shot on relatively cheap video. Sound quality is fine, with the porno music and all those curse words perfectly audible.
Is Zack and Miri Make a Porno the worst movie Kevin Smith has crapped out (word choice intentional)? Probably not (I skipped Jersey Girl altogether), but his raunchy humor and comic book references aren't as fresh-faced as they used to be back in the dizzying days of early '90s indie film.
Guilty of making me even less interested in anal sex than I was before.
Review content copyright © 2009 Jennifer Malkowski; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Comic-Con 2008 Panel
* Official Site