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.


Jenn said...

Re: whether Smith is gay friendly - he guest starred in a few episodes of "Degrassi" and gave some advice to a character who was confused about her sexuality. He was kind of playing a fictional version of himself, as there were some things he said that didn't quite mesh with who he is in real life, but he said that his brother was gay and got married in the hottest wedding ceremony Smith had ever seen. I'm not sure whether that's true or not, but he sounds like a friendly to me.

Joe Reid said...

I should probably have made clear(er) that I personally have never had a problem with Kevin Smith's gay material, but I know some people do.

Sweater Weather said...

Not to rain on Kevin Smith's parade or anything, but I'm pretty sure Lawrence of a Labia was used back on the episode of Friends where Phoebe learns Ursula's started doing porn using Phoebe's name. Along with Buffy the Vampire Layer and Inspect Her Gadget. (I might have Googled it...)

Rebecca said...

Have you read the posts Smith wrote on his blog about Jason Mewes' drug addiction and recovery (maybe 1-2 years ago)? They were fascinating.

Anonymous said...

how can anyone even question kevin smiths friendliness towards gays? he produced one of the best gay documentaries of the past few years with "Small Town Gay Bar" rent it sometime ..its awesome!!