Across The View Askewniverse: Zack And Miri Make A Porno (2008) Review

Having returned to his ‘homeworld’ of the New Jersey Quick Stop to refresh himself, Smith set course once more for mainstream success – a success that once again would elude him for deeply unfair reasons. The deliberately provocative title and raunchy subject matter ended up overshadowing a movie which delivers not only a sweet romantic comedy but also a thinly disguised autobiographical retelling of how Smith himself came to make “Clerks” all those years ago.

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are two high school friends turned roommates in a rundown apartment in Pittsburgh. With utility bills stacking up and their jobs at the local coffee shop not stretching far enough to make ends meet, the future looks bleak. Until, that is, they’re inspired by an encounter at their high school reunion to literally making their ends meet by producing and starring in their own porno movie. With the help of some friends and an eclectic bunch of jobbing actors, the two set out to make their dreams come true.

Smith’s script certainly doesn’t pull any punches in his quest for the mainstream and in some ways, thanks mainly to the overtly sweet rom-com setting, feels like one of his filthiest ever screenplays. Of course, nobody can deliver wincingly graphic and offensive dialogue with as much laid-back charm as Seth Rogen and  Elizabeth Banks can casually drop dialogue which would make a longshoreman blush without missing a beat. Both leads – charismatic enough individually – really spark off each other, to a degree that you wonder why they never really made a movie together again. We’re talking Adam Sandler/ Drew Barrymore levels of chemistry here, so it seems that this movie’s misfortune also robbed us of another fine romantic comedy pairing.

As you’d expect from a Kevin Smith ‘joint’, there are a number of roles filled by his usual repertory company and a few surprise cameos thrown in. Jason Mewes makes his View Askewniverse debut playing a character other than Jay and Jeff Anderson likewise appears as Deacon, the press-ganged cameraman for the porno shoot. Although the film’s connection to the View Askewniverse is tenuous at best until it was finally confirmed by “Jay And Silent Bob Reboot” which featured a return for this movie’s most memorable cameo from Justin Long as a jobbing gay porn actor-cum-lawyer who accompanies Brandon Routh’s Bobby Long (the object of Miri’s unrequited high school affections) to the reunion where Zack has his epiphany. Craig Robinson is also great value as their fellow coffee shop worker who’s persuaded to use the funds put aside for his new flatscreen TV to finance the skin flick in return for the title of producer, nailing the delivery of every single line he has.

Perhaps it might have been better if Smith had moderated his usual no-holds-barred approach to conventional cinematic taboos but to do so would be a betrayal of his nature as a writer and so the script is liberally sprinkled with F-bombs, jokes about vibrators, pussies and jerking-off which sometimes sit uneasily alongside the sweeter emotional core of the movie as Zack and Miri falteringly discover how they really feel about each other. But if they were left out, you’d have missed out on some of the film’s biggest laugh-out-loud moments, including a dazzlingly profane brain-storming session as they try to come up with the title for their planned movie.

A victim of pre-emptive, ignorant pearl-clutching, the movie was undermined by restrictions on advertising (it couldn’t use its whole title, only “Zack And Miri”), a certification battle to avoid a box-office poison NC-17 and certain cinemas decided not to show it. In retrospect, it was a ridiculous overreaction to a movie which, while gleefully provocative and profane, has a tonne of heart and is as sentimental as you could hope for. This could have and should have been just another bankable adult comedy following in the footsteps of the likes of Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” were in not for America’s curiously hypocritical puritanism which deems gratuitous violence and explicit drug use as A-Okay but swoons like an old maiden aunt at the very thought of exploring sex and sexuality.

7/10 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.