Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Seth Rogen probably wouldn’t come up high on a list of actors you’d want to see doing porno. We’ve already seen rather more of him than we’d like. But don’t worry, all things considered, Kevin Smith’s latest is relatively discreet. When it comes to sex, Smith is all mouth and no trousers.
Rogen is Zack, a lowly Bean-n-Gone barista with a cash flow problem – it runs right through him and there’s nothing left to pay the bills. His flatmate Miri (Elizabeth Banks) has been his pal since high school. Unfortunately she’s no more solvent than he is.
Matters come to a head, as it were, when the friends return from their high school reunion to find the power and the water have been switched off. Eviction can’t be far behind. What to do?
It’s not long before Zack’s mind turns to peddling smut – Miri is an inadvertent YouTube sensation after being caught on camera wearing nothing but her granny panties. He has a pal (scene-stealing Craig Robinson) who might seed them enough dosh for a camera in return for a producer credit. Heck, he’d even lend a hand with the auditions. And so “Star Whores” is born…
Smith’s films seem to exist in their own pocket universe – a place where Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson are major attractions, every other word would be bleeped out on broadcast TV, and a new camera set-up qualifies as “cinematic”. In other words, the normal rules don’t apply. Then again, maybe the participation of Judd Apatow protégés Rogen and Banks signals some desire to break out of the (admittedly cosy) box he’s built for himself. Certainly his long-time producer, Harvey Weinstein, could use an Apatow-sized hit these days.
It’s not much of a stretch to accommodate Rogen’s potty-mouthed style; they’re kindred spirits, these two. The first toilet gag comes in the first scene. Before the opening titles have finished Zack has his hand down his trousers and a burning sensation in his groin. Later, there’s particularly disgusting gross-out gag involving a worm’s eye view of Traci Lords’ rear end (we see the aftermath, which is quite enough).
But Smith isn’t explicit by Apatow standards. Underneath all the crap jokes, he’s a bit of a softy. The key scene here is when Zack and Miri “do it” for the first time, on camera. As the unimpressed cast and crew look on, they clumsily strip to their undies (but no further) and proceed to… make love. It’s at this point you realize the movie is about to turn into “When Harry Boffed Sally”. Which is fair enough, but it’s when he does “sensitive” that Smith’s cack-handed filmmaking proves a liability. He is probably the one famous director whose style wouldn’t look out of place in a porn movie. Apatow is Martin Scorsese in comparison.
Still, Rogen and Banks are sympathetic as Pittsburgh’s answer to Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson. It’s a bit disarming watching Banks in these circumstances so soon after playing Laura Bush in W., but Smith is too much of a gentleman to put her in a genuinely compromising position, and we’re grateful for that.
There’s a curious disconnect in the movie between Smith’s non-judgmental – actually, quite positive – take on DIY porno – it’s an activity that fosters friendship and enterprise among this group of losers and slackers – and his quaintly old fashioned attitude to sex, and it’s this that wins out in the end. The movie limps off to a blandly predictable anti-climax but it’s so sweetly inoffensive at heart, you have to give it a pass.
Titles related to this article