Zack and Miri Make A Porno
More Aptow than Smith, but pretty damn funny anyway.
After swearing blind he was done with all of this Silent Bob type New Jersey stuff, it was almost a disappointment to see Kevin Smith go back there for Clerks II after the unwarranted negative reaction to Jersey Girl. More disappointing, really, was that Clerks II wasn't particularly great. I suppose that's reflected in the marketing for Zack & Miri, as if you weren't paying attention you may have missed the fleeting references to Smith as writer/director of this film, which would perhaps previously have been the main draw.
Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miriam (Elizabeth Banks) are platonic housemates, although their low paid jobs result in a constant struggle to stay on top of their bills. On the verge of being evicted, the pair hatch a desperate scheme, the details of which you've probably gathered from the title.
They go about assembling a cast and crew from the various slackers and misfits that surround them, player largely by the slackers and misfits that surround Kevin Smith. Hello, Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson! Good to see you. Take a seat next to the excellent bit part cameos from Brandon Routh and Justin Long. Actually, that sounds unduly dismissive, as the newly not doped up to the eyeballs Mewes plays his part well and Jeff Anderson's line of crisp, snarky delivery really ought to have been seen more than it has.
For the most part however, it's the Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen show, and probably more Rogen than Banks. Rogen seems to have taken up this year's Colin Farrell / Brian Cox memorial Appearing In Every Other Film Award. Let's get this out of the way first - he's very funny in Zack & Miri. It is, however, the least comfortable I've seen him with any script, inasmuch as in every other film I can think of it seems like he's been writing his own parts and it often seems as though as if he's adlibbing much of the script. He never seems quite as naturalistic with Smith's words in his mouth. Which brings us neatly to the other traditional sticking point in Kevin Smith films.
I've been, if not an avid fan, at least an interested observer of Smith's work since first seeing Clerks many moons ago, but one thing that he's always struggled with is writing dialogue that doesn't sound as though it would rather have remained on the page of the script, thanks, rather than have the inconvenience of going though an actor's windpipe. Look at Clerks in particular, featuring as it does some of the most erudite and lucid minimum wage counter-monkeys that the world has ever seen. Sure, sure, it's just a film and suspension of disbelief and all, but the mundanity of the settings often contrast too starkly with the purple prose honking out of the speakers at you. He has, however, improved over the years, and Zack & Miri manages to find a happy middle ground between the amusing but inanely foulmouthed Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and the droller relationship based wit of Chasing Amy.
This may perhaps be why Rogen is only about 90% convincing here, very occasionally seeming a shade restrained compared to the balls-out turns in the likes of Pineapple Express. Fault of the actor, director or writer? Let's share the blame equally, although that would then make Smith two thirds responsible. At any rate, all of this is the dumb nitpicking of someone with column inches to fill rather than anything of any importance at all, Zack & Miri is a damnably funny film and that's the only real consideration I've got in this review.
As I hope you'd gather from the general plot, it's hardly highbrow stuff. What it does manage to do, however, is mix the dumb as a post tits and ass and swearing hooting fratboy stuff with a real emotional heart and characters that it's possible to connect with, in ways that so rarely work outside of, well, the recent Judd Aptow / Seth Rogen stuff. The dynamic between Banks and Rogen always seems believable and there's not a weak link in the supporting cast, with particular props to Craig Robinson.
That, at the end of the day, is just about all that's important. It's a very funny comedy. Watch it with your eyes. Your cursed, stinking eyes.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.
Seth Rogen (Zack Brown)
Jason Mewes (Lester)
Brandon Routh (Bobby Long)
Justin Long (Brandon)
Jeff Anderson (Deacon)
Craig Robinson (Delaney)