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THE SCREENING ROOM | Zach and Miri make love and laughs
Kevin Smith stays true to his cinematic roots in his latest flick about love and friendship.
Some people pick up a second job. Others sell plasma. But for down-and-outsters Zack and Miri there’s just one answer to surviving the tanking economy and one answer only: porn.
(Warning: The contents of The Screening Room herein contain references to some very adult material.)
Meet Zack Brown (Seth Rogen). He’s in the coffee business, plays on the Monroeville Zombies hockey team and learned quickly at the start of Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” that hand warmers aren’t meant to be used in a person’s pants.
Zack lives with Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks), who owns the world’s largest collection of handmade scarves, works in retail and sports the occasional pair of granny panties — as is, she says, a woman’s right.
He’s Harry (Er… hairy), she’s Sally, they met in the first grade and they’ve been platonic best friends ever since.
But when their water, heat and power are turned off thanks to some late bill payments, the two decide it’s time to invest in a good, old-fashioned skin flick in order to survive the cold Pennsylvania winter. Taking a cue from Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long), the slicked back, gay adult film star boyfriend of an old high school classmate, Zack and Miri hold their own set of auditions, coerce Zack’s coworker Delaney (Craig Robinson, better known as the warehouse guy from NBC’s “The Office”) into producing and come up with the perfect name: “Star Whores.” (Yes, even the light sabers are in full phallic form.)
But when a local wrecking company wreaks havoc on their sets, the motley film crew must work with what they’ve got: a coffeehouse, a security cam and, for better or worse, their birthday suits. Thus is born a film which bears a title I cannot write in this column, but let’s just say it’s full of “sexpressos” and “whoristas” getting to know one another under a titillating shower of coffee beans.
But not all is fair in love and porn.
When Zack and Miri’s sex scene brings about some true romantic feelings, the pair do what any healthy 20-somethings would: refuse to acknowledge it and let the awkward elephant in the room grow to the size of the Sears Tower.
What follows is what Smith (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy”) portrays best: raunchy, offensive dialogue catering to a tenderhearted slacker romance. And “Zack and Miri” pulls if off with near R-rated perfection. (Before it’s release, the film almost took an NC-17 tag, but the rating was appealed.)
Rogen, a graduate of the Judd Apatow University for Astronomical Comedic Success, is lispy and adorable; he lends the film his usual schlepy stoner charm. The refined Banks bears her comedic chops well, and the chemistry between the two is palpable despite their mismatched appearances. “Zack and Miri” also stars Jason Mewes, who gives a full-frontal performance without batting an eye, and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as Miri’s old high school crush. But the best of the side shows is Long, who delivers his lines with an uproariously low, oily, robotic monotone.
The plotline is thin as the ice on the Monroeville streets and “Zack and Miri” doesn’t come without it’s share of shocks and bathroom humor (how many other films include a lovelorn monologue during which the recipient is sitting on the toilet?), but its few shortcomings are lost in a production that warms its audience from the inside out. Full of honesty and laughs, “Zack and Miri” at it’s simplest is about what happens when two friends set out to have sex and end up making love.