‘Zack and Miri’ make a comedic gem

David Hohwald

As far as self-explanatory titles go “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” might take the cake.

For all intents and purposes, that is what Kevin Smith’s follow-up to the acclaimed “Clerks 2” is about: the two titular platonic friends making a pornographic film after going completely broke.

However, for all the smut the title conjures up, “Zack and Miri” manages to be a surprisingly sentimental and heartwarming romantic comedy, packaged with as much raunchy comedy as an R rating will allow.

Fans of recent comedy films are no strangers to Seth Rogen. The man seemingly does one comedic film after another, and for a time it appeared that he had been in a rut.

In Smith’s film, however, he finally seems to have reversed this trend with a funny and earnest portrayal of Zack that combines the absurd with the frank, creating a funny but, most importantly, genuine character.

Elizabeth Banks is no slouch playing opposite Rogen, though, and in a genre that seems to force women to take a back seat, Banks’ brazen Miri is a breath of fresh air.

Her obvious chemistry with Rogen is matched only by her ability to maneuver between a string of different emotions with relative ease, never coming across as false, apart from when the script falters.

That said, the supporting cast really does take “Zack and Miri” over the top.

Craig Robinson is absolutely hysterical in the film, and his ability to deliver timely comedic lines under his breath while lending an air of credibility to every scene with his formidable presence may in fact save the film from some of its major flaws.

Justin Long, although only appearing once, flat-out steals the scene – and maybe the entire movie – with his hilarious performance during the high school reunion sequence.

Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes both also add comedy where it is necessary.

As good as the performances are a comedy is always bound by the quality of its script. Here, Smith has managed to construct a comedic script that works on multiple levels and suffers from only some minor problems.

The script itself touches on enough different thematic areas that it would seem impossible to do any part justice in a 100-minute film, but “Zack and Miri” actually succeeds in saying a lot about the nature of filmmaking and storytelling, be it the power of the medium or the way humans demand story construction.

At times the meta-comedy elements get laid on a bit thick but never beyond tolerable levels.

Where the script lives and dies, though, is in its incorporation of serious romance elements with a script that is, by anyone’s standards, wholly filthy.

Smith’s film was originally rated NC-17, and from the looks of it, they just barely got it down to R.

The heavy use of profanity, sexual humor and nasty insults makes it appear impossible that love – the sappy, Hallmark card kind – could bloom in this setting.

Of course, when it does, the result is a sight to behold, but it does tend to throw off the script’s pacing and tone a bit.

The critical element of comedy is still humor, of course, and “Zack and Miri” has a lot of it.

It is certainly adult humor, both in the subject matter and delivery, but the film is definitely very funny – at times laugh-out-loud funny.

However, the script, in attempting so much, suffers from comedic droughts.

Robinson cannot always save the script, so for stretches of the movie there is not much to laugh at.

As far as comedies go, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is really good and not simply because it invokes tons of laughs.

It is a smart comedy and quite romantic as well.

Unfortunately, some will find it difficult to see these things under a layer of raunchiness that is impermeable throughout the film.

Still, those unafraid of a movie that will not be shown in Utah due to its content may find that Smith is not just funny – he is also a great romantic at heart.