'Zack and Miri:' the fun isn't worth the dirt
Movie making cult hero Kevin Smith has been fiddling around with the dirty joke/soft heart genre for years now, and his latest incarnation, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" revists that territory and is not all so shocking as one might expect.
Like the hilarious "Clerks II," R-rated Z&M is at its heart a schmaltzy romance, though Smith is incapable of letting a love story exist without cloaking it in sophomoric lewdness, tawdry gags and a bottomless well of dialogue rooted firmly in body parts and bodily fluids.
Zack (Seth Rogan) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are lifelong platonic buddies and perpetual underachievers who have fallen on such hard times that their utilities are shut off and they face the prospect of being homeless. Being the butt (literally) of an insulting video that rockets to fame on youtube, the duo reluctantly decides that the only way to make enough money to bail them out is to film their own pornographic flick.
Funny moments ensue as they awkwardly try to recruit crew and actors, and the movie is at its best when it is ripping relentlessly at the famous, from Joe Francis of "Girls Gone Wild" to Meryl Streep. I really think Rogan is incapable of making a movie that isn't funny. Banks is fine, but it's odd seeing the buttoned-down Laura Bush character from "W" doing this stuff.
As they make their nasty way, Zack and Miri begin to realize that they may be more than friends, and become confused and ultimately broken apart by their strong and unexpected feelings - or so it would seem.
So basically, you have a love movie - which is exactly the opposite of what Zach and Miri are out to produce. Like other Smith films, set in familiar unglamorous spots like rundown convenience stores and fast food burger joints, this one takes place in a Starbucks-knockoff coffeehouse. Smith vets Jason "Jay as in Jay and Jay and Silent Bob" Mewes and Jeff "Randal from Clerks" Anderson co-star. Brandon Routh, the Iowa native and "Superman" star, camps it up as the high school reunion star quarterback turned uncomfortably gay.
The movie gets carried away with its skin flick theme, though, and a lot of the scenes are so overboard with language and physical dirt that the audience is more likely to be embarassed than entertained at times. At some point, one wonders if Smith will grow up and realize a movie doesn't have to be filthy to be funny.
I love Smith's "View Askew" flicks - though they are for adults only. This is not the best - in fact, my favorites are the low-budget shoestring jobs. In order, I would recomment 1. Clerks 2. Chasing Amy 3. Mallrats 4. Dogma 5. Clerks II (the dance scene!) 6. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Z&M has to get filed in the second tier, alongside "Jersey Girl."