Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Zack And Miri Make A Porno

A long awaited update...

Kevin Smith is one of those directors I’ve been aware of for a while , but only just recently gotten around to catching up and seeing a few of his films (I started on Clerks and have been making my way up the list). For anyone remotely interested in pop culture today it’s hard not to inadvertently come across his name whether it be a writing credit or the role of a director, or perhaps just one of the twenty-nine times he appears on IMDB under the apparently notable category of ‘thanks’. Perhaps it was the extended hype surrounding the name of Kevin Smith before seeing his work but if honest, despite enjoying them it has to be said they felt somewhat dated and stale.

Zack and Miri Make A Porno is an interesting movie in the context of his previous films because of the more mainstream approach that’s been taken in its production and release. The concept of the movie is simple. So simple in fact it can be understood by just reading the film’s title, where it can be understood that best friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) decide to get themselves out of debt by making a porno movie together. The speed and ease in explaining this works favourably, as it opens up the beginning of the film quickly and really allows the audience to get as comfortable as the marrital-esque friendship held by the title characters, that led me to just feel jealous, alone, and depressed. To top off their happiness the chemistry between the pair is undeniable and makes them both incredibly likeable to the audience, and me even more embittered at the delight they take in each other’s company.

In the run up to release there was far too much discussion over whether ‘Porno’ should be permitted into the film’s title, and whether or not children would read the word and be corrupted by something they didn’t know about, or be encouraged to boot up their computers and Google through curiosity. What’s even more ridiculous is that now they’re happily releasing ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ starring some new British ‘comedy’ duo actually quite popular with children in Britain. Their popularity with children leads me to believe they are in fact entirely unfunny, and even more dilemma is created from the cryptic title that makes it impossible to understand if it’s lesbians who are killing vampires or if it’s people killing vampire lesbians…The approach given in Zack and Miri to the porn elements are less crude than audience members would imagine, despite the appearance of all forms of genitalia at one point or another. Amusingly, the porno moment featuring Zack and Miri is so beautifully awkward, and other scenes involving the other characters are approached in more of a humorously grotesque way, resulting in the audience not particularly wanting to revel with glee in boners nurtured under popcorn.

The supporting cast deliver a great diversity of personalities to add into the mix, though not in the same memorable ‘ensemble’ way often associated in earlier Smith outings. Though in some ways this is good as it keeps the film strictly focused on the relationship between Zack and Miri, and allows extra room for a lot of excellent one liners and visual gags that couldn’t otherwise be attributed. Smith’s writing, although different, seems much wittier and comes off as individuals telling their own jokes, rather than all the film’s characters telling jokes as if they were Kevin Smith, delivering them in the same, somewhat formulaic tone that could be equated to someone trying too hard. Despite strengths in the funny factory elements of the script, in terms of narrative the plot somewhat dominates in the last act of the movie, and the laughs become fewer as the plot rolls to its predictable conclusion. It’s predictability however, is no bad thing as again it gives breathing room for humour. It’s a tough balance to maintain and it’s only in the final act that it feels more weighted towards narrative.

Zack and Miri Make A Porno is a movie that does exactly what it says on the tin, though in this case the tin is a poster donning a slightly controversial movie title. What’s most interesting to take from it though is that Smith’s transition to the mainstream feels a little generic when put amongst the sea of Apatow branded comedies released in the last two years, and ultimately feels less Kevin Smith. Even if his earlier writing is, to put it bluntly, arrogantly self-indulgent at times, it has a charm that appears somewhat lost from Zack and Miri. Although I enjoyed the film a lot it doesn’t to me fall into the ‘cult’ category that so many of his previous films have managed to achieve despite their shortcomings when compared to some more recent script based indie comedies. Although ground isn’t broken in the case of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, the film is hilarious, written with heart, and has strong leads and solid supporting cast to perform it. It’s nice to see something that isn’t Apatow branded once in a while.

Time to bust out the video cameras and make some home movies…