Zack and Miri Make a Porno

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This Catch-Up is written by Chelsea Cristene
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Year of Release: 2008
Rating: R for…pretty much everything – adult themes, sexuality, nudity, language, crude humor. This is not a movie for “family fun night.”
Currently Streaming on Netflix?: Yes!
Spoilers: Mild to moderate.

Zack and Miri came to Netflix, and the townspeople cheered! (In all fairness, it may have been on Netflix for a while and I just now noticed, but either way, I’m a happy camper.)

I’ll admit that for the longest time, I really, really didn’t want to give this movie a chance. I’ve been a huge fan of Kevin Smith’s work ever since Clerks forever changed the way I feel about salsa, shoe polish, and the number 37, and couldn’t bear leaving behind the cast of ‘90s characters I was raised with (not to mention New Jersey!) But on the other side – no worries, Kevin, you totally beat the pants off of Knocked Up as far as I’m concerned, no matter what the numbers say.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno takes place in Monroeville, a Pittsburgh suburb I once got hopelessly lost in for the better part of an hour. Zach Brown (no affiliation with the band, played by Seth Rogen) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates who struggle to make ends meet on a coffee shop barista and department store sales clerk’s salaries. Their kitchen is home to clusters of unpaid bills, and as luck would have it, their water shuts off on the night of their ten year high school reunion. A night Miri has been anticipating for quite some time.

The scene in the high school gym is without a doubt my favorite of the movie, given the continuous stream of awkward moments that eventually give way to golden opportunity. Miri has big plans to seduce heartthrob and former quarterback Bobby Long (Superman‘s Brandon Routh – YUM), who never paid her any mind ten years ago and is currently dating pretentious Los Angeles filmmaker Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long). After Brandon adds insult to injury by playing an Internet viral video of Miri in granny panties, Miri deals with the news like an adult (I’m going to binge drink now until I pass out) while Zack probes into Brandon’s career in porn. Inspiration, here, is found in the unlikeliest of places.

Zack and Miri throw together a cast and crew of familiar faces: Jeff Anderson (Randall from the Clerks movies), Jason Mewes (the Jay of Jay and Silent Bob), Craig Robinson (Darryl from The Office), and actual porn star Katie Morgan. Barring the momentary intrusion of a drunk Steelers fan looking for a late night pick-me-up, the group is able to discreetly shoot their film in the coffee shop where Zack works. Unfortunately, its two stars don’t anticipate the solution to their financial problems causing new, emotional ones, and it’s immediately clear that their passionate love-making on a giant sack of coffee beans is about more than just sex.

What I loved most about Zack and Miri was the heartfelt and honest look at what happens when two friends sleep together for the first time: the telling each other that it won’t be weird, the inevitable uh-oh it’s WEIRD moment, the furious and futile attempts to avoid the issue by not talking about it. I was also pleased that the movie didn’t rely on a tired “friend zone”-driven plot (*cough* Just Friends with Ryan Reynolds): I got the sense that Zack and Miri genuinely cared for one another without feeling entitled and initial awkwardness aside, I believe that their friendship would have survived no matter the level of reciprocation on either end.

What this movie had that Knocked Up didn’t: Better dialogue, a break from the bitchy, uptight female stereotype we see in crude comedy, and a far more likeable character for Seth Rogen. Oh, and no shortage of Steelers and Penguins references. Sold.

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