"...the main purpose of criticism...is not to make its readers agree, nice as that is, but to make them, by whatever orthodox or unorthodox method, think." - John Simon

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity." - George Orwell

Friday, February 13, 2009

DVD of the Week: Valentine's Day Edition: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

While many cite Clerks (1994) as the best thing Kevin Smith has ever done, for my money Chasing Amy (1997) will always be the highlight of his career. It is the one film where he achieved just the right mix of his trademark raunchy humor and heartfelt romantic sensibilities. It is also, to paraphrase Holden, the film’s protagonist, when Smith finally had something personal to say. Since then, like Silent Bob tells Holden, he’s been chasing Amy.

Smith came sorta close with Jersey Girl (2004), but the tabloid spectacle that was Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez obscured what was an honest attempt on Smith’s part to articulate his feelings about parenthood. This time out, with Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), he’s really swinging for the fences by recruiting several of Judd Apatow’s regulars, including Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, which is kinda ironic as Apatow has popularized Smith’s formula with films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005). Sadly, the promotion of Zack and Miri was marred by controversy over the presence of the word, “porno” in the film’s title, and its theatrical release wasn’t handled as well as it could have, resulting in disappointing returns at the box office. The film now has a second chance on home video.

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are platonic childhood friends who live together but as of late they’re hard up for cash. Faced with mounting bills and the threat of getting kicked out of their crappy apartment, they decide to make a porno film. So, they go about recruiting a crew and auditioning a cast. They decide to use Star Wars as their model only they call it Star Whores but complications arise that force them to rethink this concept. Zack and Miri try to convince each other that having sex with each other (on camera no less) won’t change their friendship but we know that of course it will change everything.

Seth Rogen, with his stocky build and knack for laid-back vulgarity while still remaining likable, was born to star in a Kevin Smith film. He can obviously handle the raunchy dialogue but is also up for the romantic stuff, especially when Zack has to deal with his feelings for Miri. At first, he’s kind of aloof but eventually the significance of what happened sinks in. Elizabeth Banks is his ideal foil, matching him in the raunch department, but she also brings an endearing sweetness that is engaging. She also conveys a sexy vulnerability that is very attractive. There is a genuine chemistry and authentic sense of intimacy between her and Rogen that hasn’t been evident in Smith’s films since Chasing Amy.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is easily Smith’s best film since Amy, which, upon retrospect isn’t saying much (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back anyone?). It features a fantastic soundtrack (with the likes of Primus, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Blondie and Pixies among others), a solid cast (including Smith regulars, Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson), and, most importantly, is funny and entertaining.

Special Features:

The first disc includes 45 deleted scenes running a staggering 94 minutes! Basically, almost every scene in the film has extra footage, most of it improvisation from the cast. Some of it is good, some of it doesn’t work and you can see why this stuff was ultimately cut out.

The second disc starts off with “Popcorn Porn: The Making of Zack and Miri,” a feature-length look at how this film came together. Smith says that he got the idea for making Zack and Miri right after Chasing Amy and was to feature the three main actors. But it didn’t become a reality until after Clerks II (2006). Smith saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin and wrote the film with Seth Rogen in mind. Fortunately, he was a big fan and agreed to do it. This is an excellent, detailed look at all kinds of aspects of making this film with the kind of quality that we’ve come to expect from Smith’s DVDs.

“Money Shots: A Series of Webisodes” consist of 22 mini-featurettes that total over 47 minutes and first appeared on the Internet, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the film. Smith and co. don’t take these segments too seriously and have fun with them.

“Comic-Con 2008” features Smith and the main cast from the film doing a Q&A session at the San Diego Comic-Con. He is his usual congenial and funny self as is every one else as they joke around with each other in what is possibly the funniest extra.

“Gang Bang: Outtakes, Ad-Libs and Bloopers” features the cast riffing and ad-libbing until they break character and crack each other up.

Finally, there is “Seth vs. Justin: Battle for Improvisational Supremacy – Part 1.” Seth Rogen and Justin Long riff off each other in one of the scenes from the film and see who can make the other breaks character first.


  1. Hey J.D. I've actually never been a big Kevin Smith fan for some reason. The movies I've seen of his have never done much for me. I had wondered about this movie. I like Seth Rogen. I never got a chance to see this at the movies. It came and went so far. I'll definitely make sure I check this out on DVD though.

  2. Keith: I'm fairly big fan of his but haven't been to crazy about his films in recent years. However, I think that this new if a return to form. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks for stopping by.