November 3, 2008

Weekend in Reviews

This'll be quick because I only watched one movie over the weekend:

Zack and Miri Make a Porno: I am of the opinion that you either like Kevin Smith's stuff or you don't. His writing is riddled with vulgarities and a certain puerile sense of humor that can't really decide whether it would rather be funny or gross. His directing lacks style in that he's not trying to make a movie particularly visually interesting - he's just pointing the camera at the actors and making sure everyone can see them while they're rattling off his dialogue. I happen to be one of those people who likes Kevin Smith's stuff. His dialogue is crisp and witty and believable and while the intelligence of it is often lost in the dick jokes, it's there if you listen for it. What most appeals to me about his flicks though, are the sappy love stories at the center. Sometimes they're bromances, other times they're straight-up romantic comedies (albeit positively filthy romantic comedies) but they always have a gooey center because Kevin Smith is, as he might say himself, one sappy motherfucker.

This may be his sappiest love story yet (though it's neck and neck with Jersey Girl - which, by the way, is not meant as an insult because I am possibly the only person on the Internets who actually likes Jersey Girl). Zack and Miri have been best friends since the first grade and they have not an ounce of sexual tension between them when the movie starts. What they do have is the most genuine platonic love and affection I've seen on screen in years. The plot of the movie is razor thin - they are in dire financial trouble so they decided to make a porno and sell it to their former high school classmates who'll buy it just to watch people they know fuck - but the story that unfolds from there is charming enough.

Elizabeth Banks is stunning and hilarious as Miri and it's worth mentioning that, while I know a fair number of these women in life, it's hard to find actresses who can pull off a believable combination of sweet and raunchy on screen without looking uncomfortable, embarrassed or out of their element. Banks looks right at home. She inhabits the character such that she never seems like an actress reciting lines of dialogue written by a man, but like this shit is coming right out of her own mouth. It's truly a pleasure to watch her in anything. Seth Rogen is probably the most overexposed actor of the last decade and yet it isn't without warrant. He's funny, his comic timing is spot-on and he has the ability to be a sweet, believable leading man while simultaneously being totally vulgar and that's a pretty rare talent. He is terrific as Zack in a way that he hasn't been truly terrific since...I don't know, maybe The 40 Year Old Virgin but maybe even Undeclared.

This was the first time I've seen Jason Mewes do something other than Jay and he was good. For much of the movie he's just background noise - he's got plenty to do but it's inconsequential and it doesn't seem to require much of him. But all Kevin Smith movies have a "Silent Bob Speaks" moment that brings events into stark relief and create out moment of clarity for the main characters and this time that moment belonged to Mewes and he really nailed it. The rest of the cast I found merely serviceable though, if Katie Morgan decides to retire from the porn industry, I think she could have a genuine shot at a mainstream movie career, because she was disarmingly good.

Now, I happen to be a big enough fan of Smith that I read his blog (My Boring-Ass Life) and listen to SModcast (the [usually] weekly podcast he does with his long-time friend and producer Scott Mosier) so while I enjoyed the movie, there were bits of dialogue all the way through that were so Smithian, they took me out of the movie a bit - ending a sentence with "sir," putting something "on Front Street," and a few other colloquialisms that Smith over-uses in general - but for the most part, I enjoyed this movie a lot.

If you aren't bothered by nudity, frequently dropped F-bombs, a shit-ton of sex jokes, and the word "cuntnugget," and you like movies about friends who realize that their affection for each other is the best foundation on which to build a romantic, sexual relationship, you should see it.

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