Zack and Miri Make a Porno
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Zack and Miri Make a Porno

DVD

Blu-ray

When it comes to making a movie there is a lot of consideration into the title. The marketing department is called in and research and consumer testing is performed. It is not an uncommon practice that if a film falls short of expectations in the theatrical release that it would be given a new, flashier title for the DVD release. One movie was reportedly approved for production by the studio based only on its title. That film was ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’. Offbeat director Kevin Smith came up with the title and the film behind it knowing that it would create quite a stir. When the film was released there were theaters that would refuse to show it and newspapers that declined advertising based only on the title. Smith succeeded in naming a flick in such a way as to catch the eye of the public but fortunately for the audience he did a lot more. This is an outrageous comedy that frequently goes over the top. It doesn’t contain any scenes that are even remotely pornographic but it will make you snicker, smile and laugh out loud. What makes the movie succeed is that it is less about the adult film industry as it is about rough economic times and a pair of friends trying to cope. There is also a strong touch of romantic comedy that makes this a film that despite its title will appeal to both genders. One caveat demands to be mentioned at this point. This is an ‘R’ rated comedy. It is not for those out there who are easily offended by what we used to call ‘salty’ language. Smith has never been known for politically correct dialogue and he pushes things past the limits here. This is also what sets the film above the more mundane ‘R’ comedy. It talks a lot but there is not that much in the way of showing the acts mentioned. The movie met with a lackluster critical response and didn’t do that well in terms of box office. One reason is it opened opposite the mega hit ‘High School Musical 3’. While the target demographics had no overlap the musical overwhelmed the ticket sales making anything look less popular by comparison. All that is in the past now with the DVD and Blu-ray release of the film by The Weinstein Company and Genius Productions. They have been a great source of worthy films that are generally overlooked. This one is raunchy but ultimately funny on a real, human level.

The film was written and directed by Kevin Smith who has a proven track record of solid movie that tend to polarize the audience. It seems that you either love his work or can’t stand it with few in the grey, middle ground. He burst on the scene in 1994 with his extremely low budgeted cult classic ‘Clerks’. The films that followed were all considered part of this ‘View Askew’ universe and frequently drew upon a central set of characters. One of the best known was his own cinematic alter ego ‘Silent Bob’ who had only a handful of lines in a half dozen flicks. There is a big cult following for Smith and his works in his native state of New Jersey which extends across to the river to here in New York. The reason is simple; his target audience identifies with him. He is a pudgy guy who can talk for hours about comic books and the smallest details of the ‘Star Wars’ movies. Smith is completely unpretentious by nature and that rubs off on this writing and directorial styles. He is the kind of guy that you know; that friend of yours who you met in grade school and still hangs around the neighborhood pretty much untouched by time. This feeling is what makes this film work by giving it heart; something to hold on to after the silly title wears off. Smith has never demonstrated a willingness to fit into a crowd. His love stories have run the gamut of a lesbian and straight man to a single dad trying to find love while raising his daughter. In this story the titular characters have been platonic best friends and roommates for years. With the difficulties of these economic times they have no recourse for making ends meet than creating a porn flick. The fundamental story that comes out of this premise is vintage Smith. He garnered his reputation in cinema with off the wall and extremely improbable stories that are so silly that you can’t help getting into them.

As a director Smith is back from his less than successful ‘Jersey Girl’. This film had the kind of energy that worked so well in his vintage classics like ‘Clerks’. As usual there is an ensemble cast that surrounds the leads and reinforces the zany proceedings. It wouldn’t be a Smith film without the inclusion of Jason Mewes and Smith’s real life wife Jennifer Schwalbach. You might expect a lot of gratuitous nudity in a film with ‘porno’ in the title but there is very little found here. Just about the only cast members that doff their clothing is professional adult film star Katie Morgan and Mewes. In all cases the results are much more for laughs and have no erotic overtones at all. Finally an ‘R’ rated comedy that has an actual story instead of endless scenes of drunken frat boys in heat. Smith is more like a circus ringmaster in his position as director. He had to focus his amazing cast keeping them on point and adding his unique stamp to the movie.

Zack (Seth Rogen) has been best friends with Miri (Elizabeth Banks) since first grade. He works at a local coffee outlet while she is employed at the mall. They live platonically in a dilapidated wreck of an apartment but the economy has had its affect on them. The utilities have been shut off and they are facing eviction unless they can come up with their rent soon. As a distraction they decide to attend their high school reunion. There Miri has her eyes set on her high school crush, Bobby Long (Brandon Routh) but is shot down. He is attending with his lover Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long). Miri and Zack find out that they couple make money by making gay pornographer. The idea comes to them that all they have to do is make their own internet adult film and their money problems will be over. The one catch is they would have to cross the line of friendship and have sex. They gather together some of their misfit friends and start production. When the time comes to film the big scene they are unable too retain the proper detachment and realize that they have feelings for each other beyond friendship.

The core of the film is the onscreen chemistry between Rogen and Banks. This is the kind of romantic comedy that any guy can enjoy. It has the portly loser get the wildly beautiful girl instead of the handsome leading man type right out of central casting. Everyone here seems to have had a blast making this movie. Their enthusiasm leaps off the screen. In fact Banks made a little internet video that was unfortunately not included here titled ‘I’m F***ing Seth Rogan’ about the depraved depths an actress is forced to endure. Look it up and have a real laugh.

The film is released on a single Blu-ray or double disc DVD both with the same content. The first disc of the DVD has eleven deleted scenes and as usual it is easy to see why they didn’t make the final cut. The second disc is packed with some of the better extras that have come around in awhile. The first is ‘Popcorn Porn: The Making of Zack and Miri’. Smith traces the idea for the film right through to the final cut. Next is ‘Money Shots: a Series of Webisodes’ which features cast interviews and phony public service announcements. Then there is a look at a place where Smith is most at home; Comic Con. This is followed by a series of outtake, ad-libs and bloopers. The last extra is a battle for best improvisation with Rogan and Long. the Blu-ray edition is truly special. The 1080p video puts regular DVD to shame. It is amazingly crisp and clear with details that would never been noticeable in lesser formats. The color palette is reference quality with no sign of any defect. In scenes that transition from shadow to light there is a perfect contrast held throughout. the lossless Dolby True HD audio gives a sound stage that envelops your living room. Each speaker is distinct with tiny sounds coming across loud and clear. Blu-ray is here to stay and films like this show that it is worthwhile even in films that don't contain a lot of fast pace action. This is something that if you are not easily offended is a must have.

Posted 01/29/09

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