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Kevin Smith Explores Sex and Love in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”

Jim McGuire | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It’s a precarious situation. What would you do if you are infinitely behind on your bills, stuck in a dead-end job, and need to turn things around in any way that you can? Well, if you are a resourceful slacker like Zack (Seth Rogen of “Knocked Up”) and his roommate Miri (Elizabeth Banks of “W.”), you set out to make an amateur adult film (with a less-than-printable title) with a rag-tag group of locals in hopes of breaking the bank. While this might sound like an abhorrent idea to some, it is (in light of the current economic situation) a hilarious look at the lengths to which people are willing to go to in the hope of living the American dream. Admittedly, “Zack and Miri” is not a film for everyone. Writer/director Kevin Smith of “Clerks” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” fame does not disappoint in his bold style, in which nudity, foul language, and indecent situations abound (you will never think about frosting a cake without feeling dirty ever again). Like many of Smith’s films, though, it is a romantic (or “bromantic”) comedy of sorts, and, while the film does not apologize for its sex-charged subject matter, one does walk out of the film with a deep connection to the characters and a sense of real life even if it is a life you would not want to find yourself in. Zack and Miri are life-long friends who live in a dingy apartment in Pittsburgh struggling to get by. Then, one snowy Thanksgiving, one bill too many has gone past due, and they end up without any utilities and on the verge of eviction. Zack, after having a conversation with a man at their high school reunion who stars in films with all-male casts (played by a truly ridiculous Justin Long), gets the idea that he and Miri should make their own adult film and sell it to reap the profits. Miri agrees, and the two set off to finance, cast and produce the next great erotic film. After pulling together their less than stellar cast (including characters played by ex-adult star Traci Lords and Jason Mewes, i.e. “Jay” of “Jay and Silent Bob” fame), the group begins to shoot the film, and hilarity (along with some really gross sight-gags) ensues. Everything goes according to plan until Zack and Miri shoot their scene together, and the bottled-up feelings they’ve had for each other for years finally come out. While all the raunchy silliness in “Zack and Miri” would probably be enough for your average high school boy, Smith kicks it up a notch and makes the dynamic between Zack and Miri really something the audience roots for. The movie ends up being a time-tested tale of long-time friends finding love in the most unlikely of situations, no matter how uncouth that situation might be. Smith has a field day poking fun at the absurdity of sex and how pornography has, for better or worse, become a part of American popular culture, but he also recognizes something a more judgmental mind might not. Porn might be porn, but there is something to be said for finding love and knowing the difference between real life and X-rated fantasy. The foul-mouthed and clever Seth Rogen fits in well with the equally incorrigible Kevin Smith’s style, and we get something that will make you laugh hysterically and give you something to think about at the same time.