"Ultimately satisfying, very satisfying."
Having watched many Kevin Smith films over the years, I went into the Zack and Miri Make a Porno screening with a few expectations (and reservations). I expected Star Wars or similar sci-fi debates amongst underachieving nerds; crassly inventive, testosterone-fueled trash talk I might require a translator to decipher; and the sometimes soft center that lies beneath the adolescent exteriors of the potty-mouth master's characters. Example: Silent Bob's remorseful diner soliloquy in Chasing Amy.
In other words, though I've been entertained by some of Smith's movies, my expectations were low.
Zack and Miri contains all the above Smith ingredients but not in the usual proportions. Or setting. And for some tastes, it might prove to be a perfected recipe.
I didn't need a translator after all (though I brought one just in case). Except near the end of the film, but Jay, a.k.a. Lester the Molester Cockenstuff (I think I had a doll with that name once ... oh wait ... that was H.R. Pufnstuf), thankfully translates for everyone.
Oh, there's still plenty of sex and sex jokes and sex scenes and, of course, sex talk. But it's not a story full of sex. Sex is the story. Well sex on film.
Childhood friends and roommates Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) find themselves in dire straits when they can't make rent or pay their utility bills. After an evening of cozily huddling around a flaming trash barrel in their living room for warmth, Zack has an idea. Inspired by the gay porn star he met at his darkly hilarious high school reunion, he convinces Miri to back his brilliant financial bailout plan -- to make a porno.
The ragtag cast and crew he rustles up include his Bean-N-Gone coffee shop co-barista Delaney (Craig Robinson, The Office), Lester, and real-life porn star Traci Lords as Bubbles (blowing where few, if any, women have blown before). Delaney's philosophical, deadpan delivery of some of the film's best one-liners steals more than a few scenes. It's the dialogue -- and singular Smith wit -- in every scene, that makes this risqué spin on the cliché rom-com formula stand out in a cinematic crowd. Humor that's sidesplittingly, disgustingly (in a good way), and sometimes sentimentally (bordering on sappy) honest. BTW: the flick's soft center isn't just the love story, it's the oft-uttered notion that minimum-wage misfits can truly step out (or up) from behind their incarcerating coffee (and other shop) counters -- to be presidents and vice-presidents of their own T&A productions.
All in all it's a modern-day, Kevin Smith fairytale: a big-screen bearing, perhaps, of his soul at its sincerest and wittiest, if not filthiest. (Or most pretentiously political or profound). Intelligent, insightful, idiotic, and unfortunately, at times, a little too generous with mainstream Hollywood meet-cute mushiness.
This raunchy and dysfunctional romantic sexual smorgasbord may or may not please fans of the director/writer. Or Mormons.
Still it should delight plenty of other movie diners, especially those who might enjoy a chef Smith creation that's spicy on the outside, slightly gooey on the inside, and ultimately satisfying, very satisfying.
(The breakdown: A for snappy; B for excess sentimentality. So close to an A-.)