31 October 2008 | C-Younkin
Sweet, funny, and endearing
For those that don't already know, the second half to that "Zack and Miri" title is "Make a Porno", three little words that have caused a lot of fuss lately. In addition to being deliberately shortened on TV, Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) has had to fight for even the R-rating, a teaser trailer had to be removed from his website, the posters for the flick were so raunchy that the characters could only appear as stick figures(of which Seth Rogen is assuredly not), and already certain theaters have decided not to show it while openly showing Saw V and Max Payne without a moments hesitation. All this for one of the years nicest romantic comedies. "Zack and Miri" is vintage Kevin Smith, blending the cheerily offensive with heartfelt sentimentality, and while its nothing groundbreaking or even terribly gratuitous (sure there are some cock and ball, ass, and boob shots but what comedy doesn't have those now-adays), it's also one of Smith's most successful attempts with the formula.
Seth Rogen plays Zack and Elizabeth Banks plays Miri, two best friends living in a crummy little apartment in Pittsburgh. The bills are stacking up , the heat and electricity have been turned off and they're about to be thrown out on their ass. What do two struggling thirty-somethings do? While crashing their High School reunion, they discover that the school's former Quarterback (Superman Return's Brandon Routh) is actually gay and the boyfriend of gay porn star Brandon (Justin Long). This gives Zack an idea and after ruminating over it for a night, he and Miri both decide that a cheap porno is the only way to solve their money woes. They enlist the help of Zack's coffee shop co-worker Delaney (Craig Robinson) to be producer and also bring on a rag tag team of actors (Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, and Ricky Mabe), first to shoot the movie "Star Whores" with such characters as R2-Teabag, Hung Solo, and Darth Vibrator and then when that encounters a shooting problem, they decide to do a coffee shop porn called "Swallow my Cock-Ucinno".
The problem Smith often encounters is that sometimes it feels like he's throwing F-words, vibrator, pussy, and jerk-off jokes at us a little too easily and it doesn't really jive well with the sweeter side that comes later. As an example, watch "Jersey Girl." Just here he has a good balance for the most part. It starts off a little shaky but settles in nicely with crude jokes that earn big laughs. A diarrhea gag is priceless, a character named Bubbles has a unique talent, and the names themselves are great fun, take the David Mamet inspired "Glen and Garry Suck Ross' Cock" for example. It gets gooey but Smith keeps things down to Earth with an endearing love story about sex and the jealousy and uncomfortable and sensitive nature that surrounds it. It's nothing new. Everything mentioned has been explored to death on every network sitcom ever produced but it keeps its sweetness and that's really what counts here.
Rogen is a big, doughy, lovable ball of enthusiasm and he's always fun to watch. And Banks is adorable, has good comedic chemistry with Rogen but most importantly both actors bring a gentle and heartwarming romance to the screen. The rest of the cast is a big help, starting with "The Offices" Craig Robinson, who nails every line the character has, whether it's defying what he believes to be racism, talking about his wife, or nervously auditioning porn stars, he's the funniest character in the movie hands down. A close second is Justin Long, hilariously flamboyant and filled with gay pride to the point of being applause-worthy, this character deserves his own movie. And Jason Mewes is at his crude best in every scene he's in. "Zack and Miri" gets very good performances from everybody and it manages to do what a lot of romantic comedies this year have not been able to do, which is earn the laughs and earn the love of it's two characters. It's funny, fun, and you don't even need a condom to enjoy it. Let's see "Max Payne" try to make a similar claim.