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Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

The Weinstein Company
DVD Released: 2/3/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/5/2009

When I speak of directors which I admire, I'm typically talking about their visual style or their ability to blaze new trails. Sure, content is important, but I'm usually more interested in how they tell the story and the film is paced. One of the few exceptions to this is Kevin Smith. When I first saw Clerks, it was like nothing that I'd ever seen. This is going to sound clichéd, but the movie spoke to me. I was going through a transitional period in my life and as odd as this may sound, that movie helped me. Since then, I’ve been a Smith fan, and I’ve admired most of his work. And while I usually enjoy goofy movies, I hold Smith’s movies to a higher standard. Since his early, Sundance days, his films have gained more notoriety, and his latest, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, may be the highest-profile yet.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno introduces us to Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), long-time friends who are platonic roommates. Ten years out of high school, neither are on the fast-track to success as Zack works in a coffee shop and Miri apparently works in a yarn store at the mall. Their financial problems become very apparent when their water and electricity are turned off. Miri jokingly states that people in this situation turn to making porn. Zack takes this idea seriously and suggests that they actually do that. Miri is hesitant at first, but eventually agrees. Zack asks his co-worker, Delaney (Craig Robinson), to be the producer, and soon the two, with Miri, are casting the film. They line up Lester (Jason Mewes), Bubbles (Traci Lords), Barry (Ricky Mabe), and Stacey (Katie Morgan) to be actors in the movie, and Zack asks his hockey buddy, Deacon (Jeff Anderson), to shoot the movie. With the cast in place, Zack and Miri set about coming up with a story and deciding where to shoot the movie. They decide that they will have sex in the movie, with both saying that it will be no big deal. However, the idea brings up feelings that neither knew existed. Will it be more than just sex?

Smith made his name with Clerks and gained a reputation for spotlighting potty humor and immature hi-jinx. As his career went on, he actually started to mature (just a bit), as shown in Jersey Girl. With Zack and Miri Make a Porno Smith has clearly attempted to merge these two worlds. He made a first attempt at this in Clerks 2, but once the donkey appeared, all bets were off. In his latest offering, we get an odd combination of incredibly lewd dialogue and behavior with a love story. Does this mean that Smith has taken a new step in his career?

Hopefully not, because he's taken a step backwards, or, at best, a lateral move. To me, the most noticeable thing about Zack and Miri Make a Porno is that it rarely feels like a Kevin Smith movie. Smith made a reputation with his creative dialogue and the fact that no topic, especially scatological ones, was off limits. However, the world has come a long way since Clerks. Thanks to the internet and the proliferation of cable TV, porn has become more pervasive than ever. Heck, Entertainment Tonight seems to feature a porn person every night. Actually, Smith only has himself to blame here, as Clerks and Mallrats inspired many other filmmakers to bring the nasty. When there's a "dirty sanchez" joke in seemingly every other movie these days, some of the dialogue in Zack and Miri Make a Porno isn't as shocking as Smith probably wanted it to be. Having said that, the constant barrage of sex talk in the movie will probably turn off or confuse many members of the audience.

And while Smith has never been accused of major plot twists or incredibly original stories, he has always put a unique spin on his projects. (Look at Chasing Amy -- it has a unique love-triangle and it focuses on comic book artists -- you don't see that everyday.) However, there isn't much in Zack and Miri Make a Porno which feels new. The entire plot feels like an X-rated episode of Three's Company. (And I would be willing to bet that there's actually been a porno with a plot similar to this film.) Beyond that, the story of Zack and Miri is fairly predictable save for one twist. Again, Smith doesn't make the same sort of movies as David Fincher, but I expect more from him.

So, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a disappointment. But, it's far from Smith's worst work (that would be Jersey Girl). The movie is never boring and moves along at a nice clip. There are some funny lines here, some which made me laugh out loud, but nothing which rivals Smith's early work. Smith has been known to be very protective of his work in the past, but I can't help but wonder if Rogen hijacked some the comedy here. I can only imagine that The Weinstein Company had trouble marketing Zack and Miri Make a Porno because of the title, but in the end, it's a tough call whom to recommend this movie. The language won't impress long-time Smith fans, but it's not for the uninitiated either. Much like a real porno, rent at your own peril.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno gets naked on DVD courtesy of The Weinsten Company. The film has letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The picture is oddly flat looking and is lacking in detail. The colors are good, but the image is slightly dark. Considering that this had one of Smith's larger (largest?) budgets, it has a low-budget look. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, and the in-film music sounds fine. The reunion scenes provides some surround effects and the demolition scenes has some mild subwoofer effects. The audio isn't overwhelming, but it fits the film.

The Zack and Miri Make a Porno DVD contains several extras, Disc 1 features 43 (?!) DELETED SCENES which run about 95 minutes (?!). Most of these are simply extended versions of scenes which are in the finished film, with some additional action and new lines. Despite the fact that the scenes are familiar, some of the new material is very funny, especially Zack's award acceptance speech. "Popcorn Porn: The Making of Zack and Miri" (75 minutes) is a very in-depth look at the making of the film. We begin with Smith discussing the origin of the movie. The talk then moves to the casting, where we learn that Smith sort of stalked Rogen. The actors who portray the main characters comment on how they became involved with the film and their characters. This also includes some audition footage. We then get a very detailed look at the production in Pittsburgh, and a particularly close look at the grossest scene in the movie. The wrap party is shown. From there, Smith and Producer Scott Mosier discuss the editing and marketing of the film. "Money Shots: A Series of Webisodes" (48 minutes) are brief pieces which show Smith & co. in action on-set. These do contain moments where aren't in "Popcorn Porn". "Comic-Con 2008" (23 minutes) shows Smith, Mosier, Ricky Mabe, Justin Long, Katie Morgan, Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, Banks and Rogen doing a panel discussion in San Diego. "Gang Bang: Outtakes, Ad-Libs, and Bloopers" is a 13-minute reel of goofs from the set. "Seth vs. Justin: Battle for Improvisational Supremacy - Part 1" (7 minutes) shows Rogen and Long doing various versions of the scene which they share.

The Weinstein Company has also brought Zack and Miri Make a Porno to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 26 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a minute amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, but for a Blu-ray, the image is somewhat dark. The depth is adequate, but the picture is somewhat soft and the level of detail doesn't match what we're used to from an HD transfer. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and show some good separation. The in-film music is fine and the demolition scene provides surprisingly strong bass effects. But, as this is a dialogue-driven comedy, most of the audio comes from the front and center channels.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long