Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kevin Smith does it AGAIN!!

After the success of KNOCKED UP, Seth Rogen pairs up with another comely comedienne in ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO. In this Kevin Smith comedy, two desperate friends (Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) decide to earn a little extra money by creating their own adult film, but they also discover that they may be more than just pals.

When Kevin Smith’s Clerks came out in 1994, who could have known that the first-time filmmaker from Jersey was paving the way for filmmakers like Judd Apatow to take over the world? “Bromance” may not have been in our cultural lexicon 14 years ago, but that’s what Mr. Smith was dealing with—whether it be Jay and Silent Bob, or Ben Affleck and Jason Lee in Chasing Amy, or Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in (the underappreciated!) Dogma. But now, Mr. Smith has turned his attention to a more typical kind of romance, even though at the beginning it’s obscured by, well, porn. In the descriptively titled Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Seth Rogen plays Zack, a coffee barista who lives with his longtime best friend Miri (Elizabeth Banks) in a crumbly apartment under a mountain of unpaid rent and bills. After the water is shut off, and the heat, too (and gosh, it looks awfully cold in Pittsburgh—good thing Elizabeth Banks has so many homemade knit scarves and hats to be draped in), the two come up with a plan to save themselves: a homemade porn movie. One best not trouble themselves with the question of whether there was some other way Zack and Miri may have raised some money before resorting to onscreen sex—what’s the fun in that? Especially when it means you can come up with fun porn title spoofs on popular films (Star Whores!).

Still, it’s hard to imagine this film succeeding on any level without Mr. Rogen and Ms. Banks as the leads. The two of them share a natural chemistry, and while the film has some clunky moments and a couple of beats-off jokes leading up to the, um, climax of the film, when Zack and Miri inevitably get together (in quite an unusual fashion), the movie takes a surprising turn from the somewhat crass to heartwarming. Mr. Smith does an admirable job creating a character such as Miri, who can hang with the boys in a totally fresh and believable way. Some of Mr. Smith’s old reliables show up; warning, you might be shocked to see how the once baby-faced Jason Mewes has aged. Mr. Rogen brought some of his own friends into the mix, too—Craig Robinson (Darryl on the American Office) in particular walks off with a couple of scenes. As expected, there are a handful of obligatory racial and homosexual gags, and maybe a wee bit too much physically raunchy humor, but hey, if it gets seats filled, who are we to argue?

Kevin Smith’s fans are always eager to point out that without him, there would be no Judd Apatow. The foulmouthed, pop-culture-and-sex-obsessed guy pals of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad are the spiritual children of Dante Hicks and Randal Graves in Clerks. With Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith seems eager to retake the fast-talking-filth crown, and also get in on a little of Apatow’s racket of throwing in some sentimentality. On the first count, the collaboration of Smith and Seth Rogen yields solid results. When it comes to handling romance, the director can’t resist putting one of his characters on a toilet for the climactic admission of love. For the two old friends, though, actually having sex — even in front of a video camera and a crew of low-budget porn-makers — winds up being a game-changer, which is what “Zack and Miri” is for Smith. As the filmmaker matures, so do his characters, and after getting the amusing but featherweight “Clerks II” out of his system, it seems that Smith is ready grow as a filmmaker while still embracing his very R-rated comic sensibilities. The result is his smartest and funniest film since “Chasing Amy.”Smith has always had a gift with young actors — he is, for better or worse, responsible for launching the careers of Ben Affleck and Jason Lee — and his streak continues here. Rogen has become comedy’s favorite Everyman, and his rapport with Banks confirms his status as a dashing romantic lead in a schlubby stoner’s body. Even old dogs can learn new tricks, and thus Kevin Smith just directed a good movie. Highly recommendable! You'l laugh from beginning to end! I sure did. A Strong 5 on my "Go See" list.

No comments: