Another Take: Zack and Miri Doesn't Fully Add Up

Most people, when faced with money problems, would take out a loan, or get better jobs. Most people would not make a porno, but then most people are not Zack and Miri. Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are hometown friends and platonic roommates who have known each other since grade school. They are strictly best friends, with the foundation of their odd living situation working so well since they have never slept together. Yet, with quickly dwindling bank accounts, they find themselves in dire straits after their water, power, and heat are turned off and they have no way to pay rent.

After a slightly meandering opening leading to their 10-year high-school reunion, they decide that their best and easiest option is to make a porno. Miri is uncomfortable with the idea, and Zack promises that she will only have to have sex with him, and that it is a strictly business arrangement. With that, we set off into almost two hours of obscene hilarity, as Zack and Miri navigate the intricate and murky waters of human sexuality and deal with their own confusing feelings for each other.

The film is hilarious, but not the sort you'd take your grandmother to see. Or maybe it is, depending on the grandmother. Under Kevin Smith's direction, Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen are charming as longtime friends, interacting with that sort of natural ease that comes when you have spent almost every waking moment with another person. The supporting cast is hilariously stereotypical in their respective roles. Justin Long and Brandon Routh are artful in their small cameos, as is Craig Robinson (The Office's Darryl) as Zack's co-worker and friend. Jason Mewes is decidedly hilarious and crass in his role as the lead actor in the film within a film, which is too lewd to name in this review.

This film may not fit directly into the View Askewniverse that Kevin Smith has carefully crafted, with Clerks, Dogma, the astounding and provocative Chasing Amy, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and others. It isn't set in New Jersey. It lacks some of the memorable characters and endlessly stagey confessional dialogue that Smith writes so well, but it is still undeniably his film, that much is obvious in the smaller moments, the personal interchanges at which you can't help but laugh.

Ultimately, the film fails to reach any of the conclusions it is striving after. The characters maintain that sex is meaningless, yet it changes the relationships in almost every situation until they must eventually admit that it does mean something, but what? In the film, sex is used as manipulation, as pure physicality, as entertainment, and Zack and Miri are both left to puzzle out what it might mean for them, yet never quite take us along with them to any final conclusion. The potential is there to make a big statement about the nature of sex, but the film backs away just as things are finally getting interesting. Be warned: this film contains some explicit sexual material. It is after all, about making pornography. But in the midst of it all, friendships are strengthened, and real connection is sought and found.