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October 31, 2008 | Comments ()


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How You Like Them Pineapples, Apatow?

Zack and Miri Make a Porno / Brian Prisco

Film Reviews | October 31, 2008 | Comments ()


Kevin Smith made a movie, y’all. An honest to god, motherfucking movie. For years, people have been busting out slacker comedies with chubby stoners finding inexplicably hot girlfriends or basic romantic comedies sprinkled with a couple dick and fart jokes. They have never paid respect to the man who, while not the father of the genre (Richard Linklater), is assuredly the son if not the holy fucking spirit. The difference is they would triple the budget, slap in a couple of hot-in-the-moment comedians, pull back on the f-bombs, and rake in mad amounts of cash. Kevin Smith sat back, let the boys play, while he went about his business making a couple of movies with his friends. Then came Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It’s a little like Pete Wentz jamming in front of a couple of sorority girls, impressing them with all three of the chords he knows. When Tom Morello walks in, Pete says, “Hey, Tom, how you like my new guitar?” Tom picks it up and says, “Boy, let me tell you what.” He then busts out a riff that makes all of the girls wearing panties wet them, spontaneously impregnate, and orgasms all the girls in the coffeeshop next door. And then he smiles, hands back the guitar, and walks away, as Wentz’s mascara runs down his face.

Congratulations everyone else making dick and fart joke romantic comedies. You just got fucking served.

Zack (Seth Rogen), a barista at a knock-off chain, lives with his best friend Miri (Elizabeth Banks) who might have a job? They’re a couple of immature losers, barely keeping jobs, never making rent, dealing with stacks and stacks of unpaid bills. They begrudgingly attend their ten-year high school reunion so Miri can sleep with the ex-jock she was crushing on and so Zack can drink until he can’t feel feelings anymore. However, it turns out that her old flame is actually a flamer and performs with his lover in gay porn. Hmph. Things for Zack and Miri get progressively worse, but — inspired by the swanky sodomites — when it looks like they’re going to lose their home, they decide to make a porno movie hoping to earn a shitload of money fast.

It’s the thinnest of plots, and if you saw it on a DVD cover, you’d laugh and throw it back in the $5 bin next to Wargames: The Dead Code and the Olsen Twins Double Trouble Feature Pack.

But in a Kevin Smith movie, you don’t worry about the blueprints so much as how the finished home feels. Most of his films have the barest inkling of a plot, while careening along on the charm and witticisms of the cast. And it works. You don’t watch for the cinematography. You listen for the killer rapport between the real folks. This movie assuredly does not disappoint. Smith turns on all four cylinders with pop culture riffs, vulgarity, witty exchanges, and even more slurs, including the brand new shiny “cuntnugget.” Unlike most movies of this ilk, where moviegoers will regurgitate only the pre-packaged comedy bits (you know how I know you’re gay?), Zack and Miri bursts with constant gems. It doesn’t matter the scene. I can’t give you any snippets without completely ruining surprises. Well, alright, let’s just say the title of the proposed porno goes from Star Whores: The Phantom Man-Ass to something involving the phrase “cockachino.” You’ll never think of a frosted cupcake the same way again. Like a Mifune samurai, Smith has honed his craft to almost effortless killing capacity It’s why people love “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”: because the characters are absolute bastards to one another because they genuinely care about everyone. This is particularly evident in the use of racial humor. In Clerks II, we started out with Hooper X and then moved on to the porch monkey chatter. They felt a little slapped in for shock value. Here, he’s managed to weave it in with the rest of the banter to create brilliance. When a customer interrupts the black barista to request a “Coffee. Black.”, Delaney says, “We’re talking here. White.”

Underneath all of the depraved language and filth — and Kevin Smith has thrown down the sticky gauntlet of raunch and toilet humor in ways that defy imagination — there’s an incredible amount of heart. A Kevin Smith movie is always a love story at its core. Zack and Miri is one of the sweetest romantic comedies you will ever see. It’s the story of two old friends who start to fall in love with each other. Except instead of involving some sort of convoluted wedding farce or some ridiculous vacation gone haywire, these two are making a hardcore fuck flick. Who hasn’t been desperately, hopelessly in love with one of your best friends of the opposite sex? That’s practically the core of every relationship I’ve had since high school.

The movie almost completely floats on the charisma and chemistry of the two leads, something I doubted would work. The public has been saturated with Seth Rogen for the past three or four years as he continues to play a variation on the same fat dopey guy in every film. And I hope you like Elizabeth Banks, because you’re going to have to eat 17 bowls of her over this movie season. Kevin Smith knows how to work with actors. Seth Rogen finally gets to be funny and adorable and fat and slackery and it ACTUALLY FUCKING MAKES SENSE. In both Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, you never once consider Rogen to be a viable romantic interest or hero. He’s just a funny fat guy with a jewfro wearing a tight fitting suit or stained T-shirt. Zack doesn’t have much to offer, other than quick wit and snappy lines, but every thing he does is for Miri because he loves her. It’s not a pathetic, sappy love built out of a need to get into the other’s pants or out of some sort of perfect desire. It’s an honest “I Care About You” relationship that blossoms into more. Elizabeth Banks’ Miri is finally a female character who can talk dirty, drink beer, and still care about being pretty. She’s so fucking lovely and amazing in this film, I want to bottle her essence and spray it on the Hamster Ball from Bolt because it would such a potent amount of AWWWWW it would end the war in Iraq. So much of the movie is performed with just a look or a cock of the eyebrow (no pun intended — alright, maybe a little). With such love, you sometimes forget the next scene is going to involve lightsaber-shaped dildos.

Smith is smart enough to let Zack and Miri’s relationship be the main focus of the movie and not get wrapped up in throwing in as many cock-and-balls chuckles as he can. He has finally found the perfect balance of raunch and romance, and it blends so smoothly you sometimes forget the movie is about fucking. It’s downright profane, it’s crass, it’s crude, but it’s also quite endearing. Towards the end, Smith gets practically Capraesque with his sentimentality, but he’s also careful to deflate any moment that seems a little too precious. Heartfelt confessions of love are exchanged while people are on the toilet, without making it some sort of fart joke. While he avoids the complex, difficult ending of Chasing Amy, the ending of Zack and Miri is still incredibly satisfying without being sappy.

Indeed, the movie leaves you feeling almost buoyant. What makes it work so well is that you can see in every frame the cast is having a fucking ball. The sheer joy of making this movie resonates in every scene. The supporting cast is particularly splendid, a veritable hodgepodge of View Askew regulars, comedians, and porn stars. Jeff Anderson pulls off a less snarky Randall for this, but it fully works for the character. Lester is Jason Mewes’ finest performance because he’s not relying on snoochie boochies for a laugh. He’s still absolutely fucking off the wall, doing completely crazy shit, but he’s actually acting for a change. Ricky Mabe, a big star in Canada, is going to get recognition for this. It’s not quite as breakout as Elias from Clerks II, but Mabe makes the most of his small part. Craig Robinson finally gets a meatier role as Delaney, Zack’s co-worker at the coffeehouse. He practically steals every scene he’s in. If you’ve never seen Traci Lords or Katie Morgan naked, you probably don’t own a computer and still refer to flushable commodes as “terlets.” Neither of them take themselves seriously, so they’re able to just have fun with their respective parts, and it works surprisingly well. In fact, Katie Morgan was giving me a Joey Lauren Adams vibe, only filled with silicone.

Speaking of naked, and I know everyone’s wondering: You do see Seth Rogen’s ass, but no Elizabeth Banks nudity. Don’t fret, gents, because there’s more than enough inflatable boobies to save the entire cast of Tit-tanic. And ladies, if Rogen ain’t doing it for you, I offer an uncomfortably full-frontal Jason Mewes. So uncomfortably naked.

*Shudder.*

[Cameo spoilers]No Kevin Smith movie would be complete without a rich assortment of cameos. Brandon Routh plays Bobby Long, the ex-jock desire of Miri, who turns out to be a gay porn star betrothed to Brandon St. Ruby, the pants-shittingly hilarious Justin Long. That’s right. The fucking Mac guy owns you. Stay through the credits and watch Superman squirm. The only cameo coming close to topping Long is Tisha Campbell-Martin as Delaney’s surly wife, continuing the fine trend of everyone involved with the show Martin doing better things lately than the titular star. There are tons of other people popping up here and there for the careful observer, including Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Kenny Hotz from “Kenny vs. Spenny,” and Tom Savini. Unfortunately, no Afflecks were harmed in the making of this film.[End Cameo Spoilers]

Smith doesn’t set out to trump Apatow; instead he’s building off a foundation that he first laid. Without Clerks, there would be no The 40-Year-Old Virgin; conversely, without The 40-Year-Old Virgin, there would be no Zack and Miri Make a Porno. This bodes well for the future of randy comedy. The movie even looks good for once. It’s essentially the same kind of movie Smith always makes, only with a slightly better cast and a shinier production look. It’s still got all the hallmarks of a typical Smith film: A Pittsburgh locale, hockey games, an amazing soundtrack featuring all the bands on the mixtapes I made in high school — Primus, Live, DMX, The Pixies, and so forth. It’s a solid showing for Smith, who’s going to keep the faithful fanboys happy while still managing to pick up a few more believers along the way. Rush out and see this before the tolling of the Oscar bells start; it’ll be a while before you get a movie that will make you laugh and smile as much as Zack and Miri Make a Porno. People may piss on Smith — not in the actual flick, that’d kinda be gross — for not being a director in the league of Coppola or Lucas or other fat bearded fellas, but he’s doing things neither of them have been able to pull off: He’s getting better as he gets older.

Nugga-nootch, bitchtits!

Brian Prisco is a burger whisperer from the hills and valleys of North Hollywood, by way of the fiery streets of Philadelphia. When not casting his slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in an attempt to make sense of this crazy little thing called love, he can be found with his nose in a book in an attempt to make a grown woman cry when he beats her in the Cannonball Read. You can pick a fight with him via email at .com or decipher his crazy ramblings at The Gospel According to Prisco. Hail Discordia!



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