Kevin Smith's Porno Might Be Better Off Going NC-17

Today, August 4, Kevin Smith screens his latest feature film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, for the MPAA -- again -- in an appeal to overturn its current NC-17 rating. The movie, scheduled to release on October 31, needs an R rating. Or does it?

I'm thinking an NC-17 rating might be a better choice. Call me a prude, but I do think most of Kevin Smith's movies have been too raunchy for the mainstream. Why not admit it and fly that freak flag proud and high?

It's pretty clear that Clerks 2 needed an NC-17 rating. Or should I say, I wish it had been given one so that I would have been adequately prepared. That sex-with-a-donkey scene still haunts me to this day -- it's one thing to hear a gross-out sex joke and quite another to see it partially enacted. (Did anyone call PETA on behalf of that poor donkey?) Although I guess I'm also still haunted by the really lame premise, writing, and execution of that sad, 10-years-too-late sequel to a stunning directional debut. (Apparently, the MPAA did initially slap Clerks with a NC-17 rating, but Smith appealed for an R and won without having to make a cut.)

In an interview with Smith that was published over the weekend on Ain't It Cool News, the director says that he hasn't cut anything substantial so far, but that he will continue trimming Zack and Miri if need be until it gets the R rating. Smith has been through this back-and-forth with the MPAA three times now for this movie, which is cause for worry, since so many Hollywood filmmakers make their biggest mistakes in the editing room, trying to re-arrange their already finished vision of the project to appease the powers that be.

I suppose this desperate need to get an R rating is because Kevin Smith needs this film to do well at the box office. Let's face it; he hasn't had a critical hit in a LONG time. (Editor's Note: In fact delivering an "R" rating is a condition of the film being released by The Weinstein Company)

Smith has long had a die-hard fanbase who will always be loyal, the kind of guys who liked Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl and Clerks 2, even though they weren't good movies, all because of what I can only assume is an undying love for his unique style of dialogue.

The guy does have the market cornered on rapid-fire sarcastic banter loaded with cultishly cool pop-cultural references. But while his written conversations do have their charms, most of us need more than a dose of "cool" things said from our movies -- as in character development, plot development, believable story lines, etc. I loved Smith's breakout hit, Clerks, because it was hilarious and true -- not to mention an amazing feat, in that it was made on a $27,000 budget funded by maxed-out credit cards and the sale of Smith's comic book collection. I loved the sweetly cynical Chasing Amy, starring Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams. And I've been waiting for a third "wow!" from Smith ever since.

Things look promising for Zack and Miri. At his Comic-Con panel for the film, Smith said that the film visually is a strong improvement from his previous work: "Going into it I wanted it to look better than the stuff we'd done in the past. It kind of looks like a real movie." The story sounds ripe for hilarious jokes and interesting character development: Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks (40 Year Old Virgin) co-star as lifelong platonic friends who set out to make a porn together to solve their money problems; soon enough they discover they might have romantic feelings for each other.

Here's hoping that Zack and Miri, after going through multiple edits to get the R rating, comes out with the right balance of the nasty-funny and the insightful. And that there are no bestiality scenes in the porn that Zack and Miri are making.