Posted by: hollyburgh | April 17, 2012

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

by Lucy Leitner

Though slacker is not the buzzword that it was in the ‘90s, Kevin Smith still draws heavily on meandering twentysomething ennui in 2008’s Monroeville-centric Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Except this time, an older Smith realizes, maybe from his time spent housing drug addicted pal Jason Mewes, that being a directionless slacker just isn’t that cool anymore.

It’s been a decade since Zack Brown (Seth Rogan) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks) graduated from high school in Monroeville and, as a “shitty barista” and some sort of a mall kiosk monkey, they have yet to accomplish anything. Just before departing for their ten-year high school reunion, the water at their Penguins and Penn Pilsner memorabilia-adorned Monroeville apartment gets shut off. And to Miri’s question, “Even though we’re broke and we never amounted to anything, we’re still better than these people, right?,” the answer, as Zack rightly states, is “no.”

Things continue to spiral downward for Miri when two obnoxious, wired teenagers film her trying on reunion dresses, thus becoming the viral sensation “Granny Panties.” Also, her high school crush turns out to be in a committed relationship with gay porn star/plot-propeller/”Sherpa up the mountain of gayness” Brandon St. Randy (a scene-stealing Justin Long). After the reunion, the titular characters return home to find that the electric’s been shut off, leaving the shameless platonic duo no choice but to capitalize on Miri’s new embarrassing fame and make a porno.


Casting seems to be relatively painless—save for some actual Pittsburgh actors whose ages make them wildly inappropriate for porn and some actual Pittsburgh strippers who surprisingly will not do certain things on camera—and our two reluctant pornographers wind up with a star-studded team of Bubbles (retired porn star Traci Lords), Stacey (current porn star Katie Morgan), Barry (Ricky Mabe), and Lester (Jason Mewes, the Jay of Jay and Silent Bob). Zack also locks up funding from his co-worker Delaney (Craig Robinson, who basically originates the deadpan, emasculated married man that he later played in the superior Hot Tub Time Machine) and camera operation from the pugilistic goalie (Randall from Clerks) on his beer league hockey team.

All is going as smoothly as possible when you’re shooting a porn in the coffee shop where you work, capturing the action with your foul-mouthed boss’s (Gerry Bednob) security camera, rigging lights with a hockey stick, and issuing directorial commands through an orange traffic cone. That is, until Zack and Miri’s scene brings to the surface some obviously repressed romantic feelings.

There’s still the unnecessary feces and the gratuitous of the word ‘fuck’ that could have been easily ameliorated with a little thought and a thesaurus, but Smith shows some maturity in this raunchy porn-themed comedy. Smith even sets aside his love of the New Jersey Devils for a Penguins motif in the titular characters’ Monroeville apartment and a scene at that dearly departed Mellon Arena. There are fewer diatribes about logic fallacies in Star Wars, and Zack makes a clear transformation from little more than a great orator of all things filth to someone with a dream that, like the director himself, will see said vision to fruition no matter how lowbrow it may be.

In his first movie set outside of New Jersey, Smith makes smart use of the location, even calling Zack’s hockey team the Monroeville Zombies and creating a goalie mask superior to even Brent Johnson’s Led Zeppelin-themed helmets. And arguably the funniest scene in the film (at least it should be to every Pittsburgher) involves a drunken, bearded, overweight Yinzer with the region’s signature paradox—a singular focus on football coupled with the inability to pronounce Ben Roethlisberger’s name.

This movie is Kevin Smith PA (Post-Apatow), which takes some of the freshness out of the now late-thirties slacker artiste’s voice. He did steal Apatow people, like his stars Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks, who are apparently the cutest raunchy comedy couple since any one involving Alyson Hanigan. And Gary Bednod is mildly entertaining as abusive coffee shop manager Mr. Surya, but after playing an almost identical character in 40-Year-old Virgin, his shtick seems a bit stale. And the eponymous characters’ loserdom is no longer the ‘90s slacker ideal, but comes off as pathetic, trashy, and laden with consequences like generating heat from a trashcan fire in the living room without the singing Philadelphians from Rocky.

Zack and Miri is not destined for cult status like Clerks, but it put Star Wars-obsessed rapper MC Chris and an X-rated flashlight on the pop culture map. So I guess we can all thank Kevin Smith for that. Or not.

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