Max Reviews Zack and Miri Make a Porno

zackandmirislide2To my great surprise, and contrary to the suggestions of many of my most trusted critics, I found myself liking Zack and Miri less than any Smith film since Mallrats.

The first 45 minutes are vintage Smith, hilarious, including a scene-stealing cameo from the suddenly very funny Justin Long, and filled with great pop culture infused dialogue (any punchline that involves Glengarry Glen Ross is alright with me). As the decision to make a porno dawns on Zack and Miri (which is the most ludicrous plan of action since someone put motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane) and a suitable movie-themed concept is borne (certainly fulfilling a fantasy Smith has had for a LONG time), it seems poised to be a worthy entry into Smith’s canon.

And then suddenly, it’s like they stop making fucking jokes. Around the time when the porn gets a change of venue (which is completely unnecessary: after having set up a great concept Smith bails through the use of a stupid plot contrivance), the laughs became sporadic at best. This leaves the fate of the film dangling on the Zack-Miri romance, which is half-baked and laboured, even for a Smith film.

Frankly, I didn’t give a shit about Zack and Miri. They could have died in a car fire for all I cared. Gone is the chemistry present, for example, between Ben Affleck and the terminally annoyingly voiced Joey Lauren Adams from Chasing Amy, whose courtship thrived through an interesting and complicated scenario. Instead we have two characters who we know should obviously be together, since the movie insists it endlessly, though we don’t really know why. Smith always had trouble writing little moments (he’s a broad comedian, but a very talented one), leaving Rogen and Banks with these few really obvious moments, such as when Zack tells Miri she looks beautiful: “you always look beautiful”. Aww! Yawn! You can’t build a relationship out of suggestion and awkwardly written, tender moments. Even the slightly climactic moment when Zach tells Miri how he feels just comes off as a Diet Coke retread of Affleck’s unabashedly overwrought confessional moment from Chasing Amy. Where is the passion?

It seems like Smith had a very nicely conceived first half and then was pressed to turn in the script at the end of the weekend. The film simply became far too standard. I enjoy ballsier Smith, with Dogma stepping on the toes of religious fundamentalists while introducing a giant rubber poop monster, Ben ungaying gay girls, even Clerks 2’s donkey show climax that wasn’t quite as funny as it thought it was… I don’t know, it all felt kinda fucking safe here, save for one hilarious and totally tasteless poop joke. Even Jersey Girl, where Smith had the balls to subvert all expectations of his filmmaking and create a sweet PG film which knowingly assembled cliche after family movie fucking cliche and somehow (in my estimation) pulled it off, had a little more on the line.

And also, unfortunately, even though Smith begat Apatow, and then Apatow re-begat Smith, Smith finds himself not expanding the vulgar, pop-culture ridden but big-hearted movie genre in the way Apatow did with “The 40-Year Old Virgin”, but just eats Apatow’s fucking scraps. I mean, Seth Rogen, fine. Craig Robinson, veering into dangerous territory, but the coffee shop boss is not only played by the same guy, Gery Bednob, who plays Steve Carell’s rival co-worker in 40-Year Old, but he plays basically the same character. That’s weak sauce. All it causes me to think about is how superior Apatow plays the game. What Apatow has on Smith, especially, is that while in Smith’s third act the comedy subsides and the drama is not fully-fleshed out, Apatow keeps the laughs coming in until the credits roll and with a deft hand tugs at our heartstrings.

It’s really hard for me to say all these things, since Smith goes a long way back for me, being really the biggest influence on me as I started to write scripts, and really an inspiration. For better or worse, he helped shape me more than really any writer at that time, and I’ve always looked past the amateurish direction and story construction and just enjoyed his writing. For a while, the film does a lot right, and when it works, it is very funny, but soon Smith gets sloppy and loses focus. It’s hard not to be disappointed. Right when Smith should turn us around and take us from behind, he pulls out.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s