(Entertainment Weekly) -- Technically, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) do make a porno in "Zack and Miri Make a Porno."
Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen provide the spark in "Zack and Miri Make a Porno."
The platonic duo, friends since high school and now housemates with the sort of bad credit rating and depressed ambitions we've come to expect from the yakety slackers in many Kevin Smith comedies, put out a casting call for people willing to perform sex on camera.
The Zack-and-Miri version of thinking big? Maybe homemade porn will pay the bills. (Zack the java monkey's minimum-wage job at a Starbucks knockoff would make presidential candidates weep with election-season empathy.) The pair even volunteer their own services, willing to "do" sex on screen if that's what it takes to get the electricity turned back on.
Of course, what Zack and Miri actually make -- and what Rogen and Banks power their way through with a cherubic energy above and beyond the call of duty for a premise so inconsequential and puerile -- is another Kevin Smith comedy. And what the amateur filmmakers recapitulate in the porno embedded within "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" is the usual stuff of that proud son of New Jersey's repertory, only with more giggling over boob jokes, gay jokes, mall jokes, panty jokes, and high-school-back-in-the-day jokes. Watch why "Zack and Miri" has attracted controversy »
A Smith production is always noisy, shambling, and liberally smutty on the outside while conservatively gooey on the inside (and always, proudly, a visual eyesore, as if compositional coherence signifies selling out to the Man). This iteration, climaxing with the making of the porno movie within the movie, is all of the above, with Smith on -- okay, not steroids, but maybe a Venti Frappuccino half skim with foam. And ogling boobies.
The sex talk is dirty and silly; the sex action in porn scenes, while ostensibly dirty (with the exaggerated assets of former porn actress-turned-winking parody of a porn actress Traci Lords fully bared) is even sillier; and the 10th high school reunion that Zack and Miri decide to attend just to assure themselves that "even though we're broke and didn't amount to anything ... we're better than these people" is a thicket of scores to be settled for past snubs that still sting.
The simplistic message, however, is one any church pastor might give: Sex isn't sexy without love, commitment, and fidelity. The established auteur who made "Clerks" (un and deux), "Mallrats," and "Chasing Amy" may now be a 38-year-old husband and father who heads a successful production company, but he's still got cheap advice for schlumpy twentysomething guys like Zack. (Zack's notion of getting lucky at the reunion, FYI, is receiving some quickie manual stimulation from a bitter, married classmate who's enraged because her husband is flirting across the crowded room.)
The advice: Find someone as luscious and, amazingly, available as Banks' Miri, and the electricity will magically switch on by itself. Well, duh. Of course Zack and Miri are meant for each other -- why else cast that huggable Fozzie Bear Rogen or the delectable Banks, who, let's face it, looks like the Girl Least Likely to End Up a Loser?
When Zack and Miri do finally get it on -- an intimate scene that even bad cinematography can't ruin -- their lovemaking, though strategically covered up, is the one naked moment of emotion (and yes, eroticism) in this otherwise coarse movie's whole tired, simulated premise. And still, Smith throws in a limp third act before the dunderheads can admit their obvious lurrrve.
Besides Rogen and Banks, the cast is a scroungy mix of Smith regulars (including Jeff Anderson and muse Jason Mewes), porn pros (including Lords and Katie Morgan), and new ensemble additions including Craig Robinson (he plays Darryl on "The Office") as a married pal pining to see some new breasts and thus willing to underwrite the porno production costs if he can be in on the casting sessions. (Robinson's character is dedicated to the proposition that the word "titties" is endlessly hilarious. Endlessly.)
Oh, and it's worth mentioning the cameo skit at the 10th reunion between two recognizable, handsome male actors whose names you may read elsewhere, but not in this spoiler-free zone: The big guffaw is that one of the pop cuties plays a gay porn star and the other plays his boyfriend, who was once a crush of Miri's. The whole joke is so very ... one decade out of date.
EW Grade: C-
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