Film Review: Zach And Miri Make A Porno


Kevin Smith deserves to have a mainstream hit but Zach And Miri Make A Porno isn’t it – trying to mix his verbose vulgarity with the gross out sensibility unfortunately doesn’t work, creating a sporadically funny but uneven film that doesn’t hang together.

The film does what it says on the tin – long-time friends Zach (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have no money and decide to make a porno; while making the film, they discover their feelings for each other are more than they realised. Using the three-act romantic comedy structure, this concept works perfectly for the various inciting incidents and plot points for the story: they need money, so make the film; they have sex and realise the feelings; they have to have sex with other people for the film to make money, which incites jealousy; the reaction to this causes the split; before the romantic denouement. Mix this with comedy amateur porn, and you have a great recipe for a film. The only problem, however, is that it ends up as a John Hughes-style romcom with Kevin Smith dialogue in places.

There are some very funny lines and there are two hysterical pieces – the ‘frosting’ incident and Jason Mewes bending over while naked (it’s in the middle of the emotional climax, so is a very funny comedic counterpoint) – but there aren’t enough huge laughs necessary for a large-scale comedy film like this. Smith’s dialogue doesn’t come off as strong as usual; this isn’t helped by the main star, Seth Rogen, for two reasons. Firstly, his delivery is mewled – there’s something about the way he speaks that just doesn’t come across very clearly (for the first twenty minutes, I thought the cinema sound was off), and he tries to overcome this by shouting a lot. It gets stuck in the front of his mouth, with that little lisping edge softening everything. This is not a good thing for a dialogue-heavy role, especially as Rogen has most of the good lines. This is the second problem – Rogen is known for his improvising skills, something that I personally don’t think always works in films (I found it very distracting when I watched Knocked Up, which I also had problems with), and I think is at odds with Smith’s films. Playing with a carefully constructed screenplay with things that somebody thinks are funny on the day doesn’t mean that it is going to work within the context of the film. A normal Smith script would have more pop culture references, but I think he toned it down for this attempt at the mainstream, so it seems out of place when Rogen improvises pop culture references. It also means that Rogen gets the opportunity to riff while Banks is left as the straight women, which is completely unfair.

The incompleteness of the Miri character is another aspect where the film falls down – Banks is a good actress but is left with an undeveloped storyline (what exactly does she do for a vague living in the movie? What does she want from life?) and just follows things rather than makes choices from within the character. The transition from ‘What are we going to do?’ to ‘Yes, let’s make a porno’ just doesn’t feel believable. Ultimately, she just has to smile after the sex scene to show her realisation, and cry at the end when Rogen comes back, and that’s not a story arc. And don’t get me started on the fact that Rogen is a fat and ugly man who is not in the same league as Banks, and being funny and caring do not make up for that.

The thing I missed in a Kevin Smith film was the personal quality he brought to his other films. Admittedly, there are aspects that are personal – Zach being a slacker who makes a self-penned film at night in the place where he works reflects Smith’s experience of Clerks; the people making the film become a family who continue to work with each other, reflecting Smith’s preference for using the same people – but it feels distant and detached. The lack of development of the other aspects accentuate this – a couple of montage shots are supposed to indicate that the people on the set have suddenly become a close-knit group of friends, and feels false – and the way the film brings about the resolution also feels unreal and inorganic.

I wanted to like this film and for it to be Smith’s breakout hit (I’m a big fan), but it’s just okay. The Smith/mainstream chimera doesn’t hold together and, apart from Jeff Anderson’s delivery, it doesn’t feel like a Smith film. There are some nice turns from Justin Long and Brandon Routh, and it was nice to see Jason Mewes looking so healthy, but Zach And Miri Makes A Porno doesn’t make for a great comedy.

Rating: VID

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