Zack and Miri Make a PornoWriter/director Kevin Smith is well-known for his foul-mouthed scripts and his (somewhat intentional) lack of flair behind the camera.  And though Smith is admittedly lacking in the directorial department, his well-crafted lines typically pull his movies along anyway, as characters spout off nonstop quips and pop references in lieu of investing in a scene. This method has served Smith well in the past, leading Clerks to become an infamous independent phenomenon. 15 years later (and only a few years after the not-so-popular Clerks sequel, Kevin Smith seems to be attempting a transition. In Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith thrusts himself into the “dirty (with a heart)” world of Judd Apatow comedy (a world some argue that Smith himself helped create with his early work). Smith may have had a hand in the founding of this particular mix of smut and sweet, but it doesn’t appear that he’s gotten the hang of it yet.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the story of two deadbeat roommates in their late 20’s (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) who, on the eve of their 10-year high school reunion find themselves in an apartment with no water, no heat, and no electricity. So, how are they going to pay the rent? Well, that should be obvious enough shouldn’t it? They’ll make a porno film and sell it to everyone in their high school class. And suddenly, with the money it would take to buy a flat screen tv, our heroes have a full porno cast (including Jason Mewes and Traci Lords), a producer (Craig Robinson), and a camera man (Jeff Anderson). It’s a relatively lightweight concept with relatively lightweight jokes, and while Smith handles the plot turns with ease, he can’t quite grasp what built Apatow’s empire: letting top-notch actors display their comedic prowess while also exploring their own dramatic chops.

Every time Banks or Rogen start to enhance the movie by attempting to throw some actual emotion into the picture, Smith seems to either shy away, by changing the subject much to quickly or lingering extensively on an emotional look that most directors can capture in a few seconds. Smith goes back and forth with this, alternately implying that he doesn’t trust that his audience can fully understand an emotion without it being beaten into their heads and cutting away from a dramatic scene for fear that it might be labelled sappy. And despite the paperthin plot and familiar jokes, Zack and Miri Make a Porno feels bloated and overlong (watch that language!) at an hour and 40 minutes. What’s most painful to watch is the clear waste of talent in most every scene. Smith wrote the script for Seth Rogen after seeing him in 40-Year Old Virgin, and was a bit surprised that Rogen signed on after the stardom he achieved with Knocked Up. And while Smith’s script was written for a rising name, what he got was a comedy star – unfortunately he didn’t know how to use him.

The supporting cast does their best with the material they’ve got. Craig Robinson comes on strong in every scene he’s got as does Jason Mewes – in fact, Mewes manages to throw out some of the funniest lines of the film. Traci Lords and Katie Morgan perform at the level you’d expect from adult film stars and both are strangely endearing. Justin Long and Brandon Routh only show up for a few minutes as a gay couple, but Long steals every scene he’s in, speaking with a deep, put-upon register and tossing out one-liners like candy. If the rest of the film were as funny as Long’s few scenes, Kevin Smith might have made more than a movie about mak a movie.

On a scale of 1 to 10: 5, right in the middle
Perfect For: Smith fans who hear angel’s voices when actors spout off overly scripted dialogue
Stay Away if: You see Seth Rogen and the word “porno” and you think, “now how could this go wrong?”

To purchase Zack and Miri Make a Porno, visit Amazon

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