Zack and Miri Make a Porno

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You know if you simply look past the full-frontal nudity, professional porn actresses, scatological sight gags, glowing sex toys and the constant references to all manner of sex acts that are still technically illegal in some states, then Zack and Miri is a pretty conventional romantic comedy. In fact, in a weird way it's one of the most traditional films that indie stalwart and lighting rod director Kevin Smith has ever made, complete with such unheard-of standard mainstream mannerisms as proper lighting, soft-focus close-ups and a camera that actually moves now and then. Of course, being the most competent Smith movie is like being the tallest gnome; but at least the guys seems to be maturing in technique even as he's busy mining the depths of adolescent gross-outs. Yet the smut is blunted by a deep vein of sentimentality that makes for a heady mix; Smith has the heart of Rob Reiner and the mind of Larry Flynt.

Like him or love him or loathe him, the dude's smart, and since breaking through his long-practiced brand of raunch 'n' roll has become the standard, popularized by Judd Apatow's empire, a fact Smith seems to be fully embracing. No surprise then that he's cast Apatow's breakout star Seth Rogen as cuddly loser Zack, and as the bubbly Miri, the It comedy actress of the moment Elizabeth Banks, equally adept playing Laura Bush and a girl who shows off her bush. This naturally charming duo play lifelong platonic buddies, and struggling roommates with a sky-high stack of unpaid utility bills and looming eviction. They take a break from their financial woes at a 10th high school reunion, where in a perverse inside joke on the geek community, Smith casts Superman Brandon Routh as Miri's old crush, Bobby, who is not-so-secretly gay. The cat gets let out of the closet by his hilariously inappropriate lover (a brilliantly droll Justin Long) whose lucrative career in gay porn gives Zack a brainstorm. What better way to make a quick buck than making porn? What follows is sort of the sitcom version of Boogie Nights; as they recruit a crew complete with adult starlets Katie Morgan and former icon Tracy Lords, and Smith's comedy soulmates Jason Mewes (Jay) as a horny actor, and Jeff Anderson (Randall) as the camera man.

All the best lines go to Craig Robinson (The Office) as Zack's co-worker turned "producer," overjoyed that he gets to see some boobies not attached to his ball-busting wife. Much humor rises from a constant stream of cheerful obscenity, and from the string of parody porn titles like "Star Whores," that have probably been kicked around since middle-school. The laughs are easy, too easy in the case of an unforgivable poop gag, but eventually lose their luster. Fortunately, the leads, and their "why don't you just do-it already" romantic tension carry the picture with a tender chemistry usually only reserved for "bromance" in the previous "View Askew" pictures. It took a movie about porn for Kevin Smith to start appreciating women, or at least letting them into the clubhouse as full members.

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