By Matt Brunson
ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
DIRECTED BY Kevin Smith
STARS Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks
The latest from writer-director Kevin Smith is always likable even if it isn't always inspired. As he proved with Chasing Amy (still the Citizen Kane of his output), Smith can deftly pull off the proper mix of sweet and funny and raunchy; in this case, though, only the "funny" clears all hurdles, as the "sweet" is of the standard variety while the "raunchy" often overwhelms the picture.
Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are aptly cast as Zack and Miri, lifelong best friends and present-day roommates who are so broke that they can't even afford to pay their utility bills. After a life-altering high school reunion, Zack hits upon the brilliant idea of making their own hardcore adult film in order to raise significant amounts of green. Initially, the eight-person cast and crew (played by, among others, Smith vets Jason "Jay" Mewes and Jeff Anderson and former porn star Traci Lords) plan to mount a Star Wars spoof titled Star Whores (featuring such characters as Hung Solo, Princess Layher and Darth Vibrator), but after that falls through, they opt to use a coffeehouse as their setting.
Rogen and Banks are both utterly winning, and their charisma helps offset the fact that their characters' romance takes off down a disappointingly predictable path (remove the risqué trimmings, and we're left with a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com). The vulgar material is alternately hilarious and off-putting, although any movie with the imagination to cast perpetually boyish Justin Long as a gravel-voiced Hollywood gay porn star obviously has much to recommend it.