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Kevin Smith
Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Gerry Bednob, Brandon Routh, Tom Savini, Jim Norton, Justin Long
Writing Credits:
Kevin Smith

What Would You Do To Get Out Of Debt?

Lifelong platonic friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) look to solve their respective cashflow problems by making an adult film together. As the cameras roll, however, the duo begin to sense that they may have more feelings for each other than they previously thought.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.065 million on 2735 screens.
Domestic Gross
$31.434 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 2/3/2009

• 43 Deleted Scenes
• Previews
• “Popcorn Porn: The Making of Zack and Miri” Documentary
• “Money Shots: A Series of Webisodes” Featurettes
• Comic-Con 2008
• “Gang Bang: Outtakes, Ad-Libs and Bloopers”
• “Seth Vs. Justin: Battle for Improvisational Supremacy Part 1”


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Zack And Miri Make A Porno (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 30, 2009)

For years, Kevin Smith movies hit a wall in terms of box office gross. They could get to $30 million, but that’s where they died. Even Jersey Girl, Smith’s star-studded attempt to go mainstream, tanked; it sputtered after it hit the $25 million mark and suffers from the humiliating fate as the only Smith movie that failed to gross more than its budget. (It cost $35 million, which is a big budget for Smith.)

After all those years of the “$30 million wall”, Smith broke through with 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. And what a smash it was: Porno soared past the $30 million mark and ended up with a gross of $31 million!

Well, it’s a start. It comes as a bit of a surprise that Porno didn’t do a bit better, as I thought Flavor of the Month Seth Rogen would be enough to lure in a greater audience. Perhaps viewers are sick of him, or maybe they were turned off by the potentially racy subject matter.

Or maybe Smith just doesn’t work for a mass audience. In Porno, we meet the title characters: roommates and lifelong platonic friends Zack Brown (Rogen) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks). On the cusp of their 10-year high school reunion, they examine their lives and find their situation to be less than ideal. They struggle in crummy jobs and can’t afford to pay the bills.

When they attend the reunion, Miri throws herself at her longtime crush, hunky Bobby Long (Brandon Routh). He rebuffs her approaches, largely because he’s gay, a fact Zack discovers when he chats with Bobby’s boyfriend Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long).

Zack also finds out that Brandon and Bobby are gay porn stars, and that gives him an idea. He figures that plenty of their classmates would pay to see Zack and Miri have sex, so if they made a porno, they could dig themselves out of their financial hole. Miri eventually agrees, and the project slowly takes on a grander scope. We follow their cinematic misadventures as well as the way the effort affects their relationship; it turns out the friends may have feelings for each other that go beyond the platonic level.

Which doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. In fact, Porno might’ve been more interesting if it avoided the Inevitable Romantic Subplot. Some will argue that this side of things gives the flick more depth, and they also might claim that it allows the film greater appeal for females.

And they’d probably be right on both accounts, but that doesn’t counteract the predictability of it. We smell this theme early in the movie, and it puts something of a damper on the proceedings – for me, at least. It’s not that Smith can’t do sweet romance - Chasing Amy remains probably my favorite Smith flick – but there’s something about the way it comes out here that just feels stale to me.

Perhaps it’s The Rogen Factor. Try as I might, I can’t suspend disbelief enough to accept that a babe like Banks would happily copulate with a slug like Rogen. It doesn’t help that Rogen – average at best – looks absolutely atrocious here. He’s at his pudgy scruffiest, and it ain’t a good look. Some might argue that fat, shaggy Smith landed himself a serious babe as a wife, and they’d be right. But that’s Kevin Smith, Famous Filmmaker, not Zack Brown, Bankrupt Loser.

Looks aside, Rogen really is starting to work against movies at this point. He’s so damned ubiquitous that he’s wearing out his welcome. A couple of years ago, I liked the guy. I remembered him from his Freaks and Geeks days and thought it was cool that such an ordinary-seeming guy could become a movie star.

Two years and 728 movies later, enough is enough. In addition to his over-exposure, it doesn’t help that Rogen plays exactly the same role whenever he’s the lead. Is there anything to differentiate Zack from Rogen’s roles in Pineapple Express or Knocked Up? Nope. Sure, he expands a bit with his supporting parts, but it still always feels like he’s playing “Seth Rogen” and not a character.

It doesn’t help that he fails to provide a terribly convincing performance, especially when matched with the much superior Banks. Through 90 percent of the movie, Rogen scowls, furrows his brow and spits out his lines in an angry way. Occasionally this becomes appropriate, but it remains an oddly aggressive take on the character. On the other hand, Banks seems natural and believable. There’s a radical difference between her convincing acting and his hysterics.

All this griping and whining aside, I think Porno offers a reasonably entertaining experience, though it doesn’t compare with Smith’s best work. At times it feels like an uneasy combination of Smith and Judd Apatow, mostly due to the cast; in addition to Rogen, we get Apatow regulars like Craig Robinson, Gerry Bednob and Justin Long. Apatow had nothing to do with Porno, but the inclusion of these actors might lead one to anticipate his involvement.

Nonetheless, Porno still feels like a Smith flick. It includes some of his own regular actors – we get the ubiquitous Jason Mewes as well as Jeff Anderson of Clerks fame – and it sports other Smith trademarks like comedic crudeness, many Star Wars references and much profanity. You wouldn’t find anything like the “frosting” scene anywhere else.

Through its first third – and maybe even first half - Porno works quite well. Despite Rogen’s odd performance, it musters a lot of funny bits and charm. It’s not a coincidence that the story elements related to making a porn flick dominate the movie’s opening half. If Smith had kept things going in that vein, I think the movie would’ve been more satisfying.

As I mentioned earlier, when Porno turns more dramatic and relationship-oriented, it loses steam. Again, I understand why Smith would want to give us something with greater depth and not just provide 100 minutes of comic shenanigans; I just don’t think that the romantic subplot satisfies.

Except for Rogen, the movie does boast quite a few good performances. I already noted Banks’ talents, and a few others stand out as well. Robinson proves especially funny as Zack’s buddy and the porn flick’s producer. He has a delightfully underplayed but still quirky style that makes ordinary lines amusing. Justin Long also delivers a short but great turn as the one who indirectly inspires Zack and Miri to create their sex tape.

Despite a mix of complaints, I do like much of Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Even ordinary Kevin Smith is usually pretty entertaining, and this one largely works in spite of some missteps. It’ll probably never be one of my Smith faves, but it amuses.

Footnote: be sure to stick around through the end credits – you’ll find a terrific surprise.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus A

Zack and Miri Make a Porno appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie presented a consistently satisfying transfer.

Sharpness was good. I noticed only minor softness in wide shots, as the movie usually seemed crisp and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to appear, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also stayed away, as the movie suffered from no specks, marks or other defects; interiors could be a little grainy, but that wasn’t a problem.

Colors looked nice. The movie went with a warm, golden feel much of the time, and the transfer delivered clear hues. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. Overall, this was a satisfying picture.

Should you expect a slam-bang spectacular from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Porno? Nope, as it stayed with an extremely subdued soundfield. Speech dominated, as dialogue was easily the most important aspect of the mix. Music and environmental elements also appeared but didn’t play hugely significant roles. They broadened the package to a degree, however, and opened up matters in a natural and satisfying manner. The only effects sequence that packed a real punch occurred during the destruction of a building. Otherwise, even a hockey game lacked much pizzazz.

Audio quality was quite good. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other issues connected to the lines. Effects were a minor concern but appeared accurate. Music worked well, as the tunes sounded lively and dynamic. All of the elements boasted solid bass response. Though the flick sounded good, the ordinary soundfield left this one as a “B-”.

We find plenty of extras across this two-disc set. To my shock, however, we don’t get an audio commentary. Every other Kevin Smith feature film includes a commentary, so the absence of one here stuns me. A trip to the “View Askew” website indicates that this was Smith’s decision; he’s not totally clear about the reason for the commentary’s absence, but his remarks leave me with the impression that he prefers podcasts – available at http://www.quickstopentertainment.com/category/smodcast – and that he’s simply bored with doing commentaries.

I think Smith produced fine commentaries, so I remain disappointed that we don’t get one here. Nonetheless, we do discover many other components. On DVD One, we locate a whopping 43 Deleted Scenes. In total, these run one hour, 34 minutes and 46 seconds. No, I’m not going to discuss – or list – them individually; I don’t want to type that, and you don’t want to read it.

Most of the scenes extend existing segments, and about one-third of the total footage consists of outtakes from the coda that appears during the end credits; a full 20 minutes shows improv work with Justin Long and Brandon Routh. These bits are funny but don’t do anything to embellish the plot.

On the other hand, we find some decent added info in the first hour or so of cut footage. We learn the origins of Miri’s granny panties, and we find out a bit more about Delaney’s postal service lawsuit. We discover why so many odd old people audition for the flick, and – in a rare completely deleted scene – we see how Deacon and Zack paid for the video equipment.

Some character relationships expand as well. In particular, we see more of the connection between Barry and Bubbles. More of the deepening Zack/Miri relationship also occurs, but those shots tend to feel redundant.

Still, most of the deleted scenes are good, and it seems clear the majority were cut due to time considerations. There are only a few that I think would’ve harmed the movie; for instance, one telegraphs the shady nature of the movie set rental and makes Zack look too stupid. Expect plenty of funny material through this extensive collection of scenes – they’re definitely a lot of fun.

DVD One opens with some ads. We get clips for Sold Out: A Threevening with Kevin Smith and Clerks 2. No trailer for Porno appears here.

Over on DVD Two, the prime attraction comes from a documentary entitled Popcorn Porn: The Making of Zack and Miri. During this one-hour, 14-minute and 44-second show, we hear from Smith, producer Scott Mosier, production designer Robert “Ratface” Holtzman, and actors Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Craig Robinson, Traci Lords, Ricky Mabe, Katie Morgan, Jeff Anderson, Justin Long, and Brandon Routh. “Porn” looks at the origins of the project and its development, cast, rehearsals and performances, principal photography and shooting in Pittsburgh, test screenings and dealing with the MPAA, and the movie’s release.

Although I still wish the DVD included a commentary, “Porn” helps compensate for the absence of one. It digs into many good movie-related subjects and does so in a highly entertaining manner. I especially like the detailed examination of the “shit cannon” as well as the exploration of the ratings issues. This is a fine documentary.

For some Internet-based material, we go to Money Shots: A Series of Webisodes. These originally appeared on the official movie website, and we get 22 of them; all together, they fill 47 minutes, 43 seconds. They give us comments from Smith, Rogen, Mabe, Robinson, Anderson, Mewes, Banks, Morgan, Routh, Long, and actors Kenny Hotz and Tisha Campbell. These follow the actors around the set, usually for comedic purposes; you won’t learn much about the production, though a kitchen table chat between Rogen and Banks gives us some decent notes. The “Money Shots” are consistently fun, but don’t expect to get much movie info here.

Comic-Con 2008 goes for 23 minutes, eight seconds and shows a panel with Smith, Rogen, Banks, Mosier, Mabe, Long, Morgan, Mewes, and Lords. They cover various movie-related topics as well as other aspects of their careers. I usually expect the worst from the fanboys who follow Smith, but they actually ask some pretty decent questions here. That factor turns this into a fairly engaging and informative piece.

Unused footage appears via the 12-minute, 59-second Gang Bang: Outtakes, Ad-Libs and Bloopers. It provides what the title implies: lots of alternate takes and some goof-ups. Happily, the former dominate and we only get a little of the latter. We find many funny unused takes in this entertaining collection.

Finally, we get a clip called Seth Vs. Justin: Battle for Improvisational Supremacy Part 1. It goes for seven minutes, 24 seconds as it gives us a bunch of alternate lines for the scene in which Zack meets Brandon. Who wins the battle? Long – and by a bunch. Not only are his lines funnier, but he also keeps a straight face; Rogen can’t go 10 seconds without chortling. It’s another fun batch of footage.

By the way, if you want to see “Part 2”, you’ll have to make it a Blockbuster night. The rental giant has an exclusive deal with Porno distributor the Weinstein Company, so “Part 2” is exclusive to Blockbuster. Bummer.

Among Kevin Smith’s films, Zack and Miri Make a Porno ends up somewhere in the middle. To be sure, it’s usually quite funny and enjoyable, but it sags as it progresses and doesn’t match up with his best work. The DVD provides very good picture, more than adequate audio, and a set of extras that works really well despite the lack of a commentary. I doubt Porno will create many new Smith fans, but those who dig his work will like it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4285 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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