Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. We got our first review in from a test screening of Zack and Miri Makes a Porno from Kevin Smith. It's a really positive review, but he has an issue with some of the drama. When reading the below review (spoiler alert, by the way) I get the feeling that the gut punch and anger was intended. I'm excited to see this flick. Enjoy the review, but again... beware of spoilers and keep in mind this film is most likely still being shaped and probably will be a bit different when it hits theaters.
Not sure who to send this sort of thing to, so I'm gonna hit Quint, Moriarty AND Harry just in case. So I managed to get into a very early test screening of Kevin Smith's latest thing, "Zack & Miri Make a Porno," in a certain midwestern city tonight. The story takes place around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and I'm sure you know the scoop: Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are platonic pals living in an apartment with no electricity and no water and are about to default on their rent until, lo and behold, circumstances involving a cell phone camera and a high school reunion provide Zack with a revelation: They should make a porno film to solve their monetary woes. The enthusiasm quickly overtakes him and even infects Miri until they even agree to do a scene together. Of course, once they wind up actually facing the reality of sex together, years of pent-up feelings rise to the surface and make them fall in love. If I had to describe it, I'd say it's similar to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" - it's a raunchy sex comedy that also wants to have a sweet romance at its center. As such, there are really two merits that must be examined here: The comedy and the romance. The comedy? It's pretty much great, and it's all thanks to some hilarious dialogue. Some of the strongest stuff I've heard from Smith in years comes out here, and he even manages to avoid going down a road of heavy pop culture influence. The cast of supporting characters, which includes Jason Mewes playing someone who's NOT pot-dealer Jay for once plus real porn star Katie Morgan as a dense but sweet stripper, is pretty much spot-on. Despite the fact that they're making a porno together, these people manage to seem endearing and sweet. A cameo turn from Justin Long is particularly hilarious. Zack's best pal, played by Craig Robinson, is a little more hit and miss: Some of his dialogue is among the strongest in the movie, but the jokes about his wife (and her eventual appearance towards the end) are just depressing and unpleasant. The situational comedy stuff is mostly good, too, with lots of hilarious beats during the porno shoot. However, this is also where weaknesses start to crop up: While some of it is great, some of it's just way too obvious. Miri goes to her high school reunion and spots her old crush and immediately wants to seduce him. Quick, what do you think she'll find out during this scene? Your first guess is likely correct. A girl is complaining of constipation shortly before shooting a sex scene: Quick, what do you think will happen next? It's so predictable that it elicits groans. Which brings us to the main problem with the film: The romance. It's not the fault of the actors: Seth Rogan actually gets to do some real serious emotional stuff here, and I was surprised by how affecting he is. Elizabeth Banks proves that she deserves to be a headliner with how damn good she is at hitting those emotional notes. The problem is that, although I buy into the relationship and the chemistry they share, I don't root for it. I believe these two have feelings for each other, but ultimately, I don't want them to get together. No, instead I root for them to go their separate ways, learn lessons from their mistakes and never speak to one another again. Why? I was actually on-board during the film's middle, but there's a big scene where the shit hits the fan and Zack and Miri have it out in the back room of a coffee shop: Sadly, this is the scene where Miri goes beyond the pale and reveals herself to be scheming, manipulative and vicious. It would be more understandable if she the situation wasn't entirely her own fault, but her own manipulations get her here and she shows no sign of remorse as she viciously rips Zack in two. After this... she vanishes for 15 minutes and has only two or three lines of dialogue for the entire rest of the movie. She never gets any chance to redeem herself. Instead, the last act deals - unbelievably - with ZACK hunting her down and apologizing for, um, the fact that SHE betrayed and used him and assumed things about him? Waitaminute... that's... As the lights went up, I wondered if my lack of sympathy for Miri after this scene was, perhaps, a "guy thing" because of how she manipulated Zack. So I talked to my girlfriend about it, who also attended with me, and we agreed completely: We hated Miri after her bullshit in that scene, and unfortunately she never gets any chance to apologize, to show that she really cares about him. She just sits teary-eyed on a toilet, then delivers a couple more lines in the last seconds of the movie and we're supposed to somehow accept her again. Neither I nor my lady friend did so. The "happy" ending is unearned. Maybe it sounds like I'm taking this too seriously - it's a sex comedy, right? - but Smith obviously wants us to take the relationship seriously, given how seriously he presents their big emotional scenes together. The good news is that, even though the heart of the movie doesn't really fly, the comedy pretty much does. It's all about the dialogue, and the dialogue is some of the best stuff he's done since his mid-90s work for me. That, and the chance to enjoy a great ensemble and some strong performances, make it worth seeing. It's just a damn shame that the emotional core didn't work. It's not too late, though - he's got plenty of months left to give Miri another new scene or two where she expresses plenty of remorse to make her seem less like a stone-cold bitch. If you get some use from this, call me "Snake Oiler."