Monday, December 08, 2008
Random, Semi-Focused, Bullet-Pointed Thoughts on...
...Zack and Miri Make a Porno
-- I suppose it's a little late in Kevin Smith's career to be giving him credit for improving as a director, but after the a Jersey Trilogy (...that lasted through five films) that remained steadfastly uncinematic, one earnest flop, and one highly depressing regression, this feels like a career reboot for the guy, and while it's lacking in some fundamental ways, it's also probably the most accomplished movie he's made since Chasing Amy.
-- That being said, there's still a lot of work to be done, especially with the serious/romantic elements to the story. Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen came ready to work, but the writing kept falling back on cliches and sappy platitudes at the most crucial moments, and when that didn't work, the soundtrack got cranked up.
-- But Smith still has a knack for making likeable characters, and that doesn't abate here. Elizabeth Banks really flourishes, with a character that's not quite as idealized as Rosario Dawson in Clerks II. (But, you know, kinda close.)
-- The subplot with Justin Long and Brandon Routh as a gay couple (really more like an extended cameo -- where were they in the final reels??) was about as good as I could have hoped for and really helped me solidify my opinion on whether Kevin Smith's gay material is offensive or not. I've always been of the mind that Smith is a friendly (which is clear if you listen to him speak for three seconds) and knowing that I'm fine with the gay-themed comedy. But after seeing this movie, you get a good sense of the utter fascination Smith has with...if not gay culture then at least gay activity. You see this kind of fascination in straight guys all the time, it's just that it's usually followed up by mocking or violence. Not with Smith, though. He manages to keep his gay fixation at a level of enthused curiosity. Long and Routh aren't playing actual gay people, they're playing Kevin Smith's idea of gay people. Yeah, the whole "They're just like us, only they like cock!" stuff could be read as patronizing, but we're all clear that we're no longer looking to Kevin Smith films for flesh-and-blood characterizations, right?
-- I have to be uncharitable, but I have to mention how depressing it is to see Jason Mewes with what appear to be veneers, which I have to assume were necessary after losing his teeth to the meth. Not that I'm jumping to conclusions or anything but...come on. On the bright side, I was kind of disturbed by how good the guy looks naked.
-- I think we can all officially give up the ghost on Traci Lords learning how to act. The lady's been in many movies (legit, non-porn movies), with real directors and actors to learn from, and it's just not going to happen. That being said, she spent the entirety of Zack and Miri looking SUPER happy to be there. So that was nice to see.
-- My favorite part of the movie was trying out punny porn titles. I can't remember most of the good ones now, but Lawrence of a Labia was a definite highlight.
-- It's tough to say how a director like Kevin Smith can flourish in Judd Apatow's Hollywood -- he gets by this time by basically co-opting a bunch of Apatow regulars and making sure his shit joke is WAY grosser than anything Judd's ever attempted (uh...mission accomplished). Simply swapping out pot references for Star Wars and turning the sex talk to eleven probably isn't enough. But he's got a comfortable (and marketable) genre to sit in while he figures it out.