Running Time: 101 mins
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes
Genre: ComedyCountry: USA
Lifelong buds Zack and Miri come to realise that sometimes you've got to give head to get ahead and venture out into the world of independent makers of poe-nography. Things take a turn for the weirdest when swapping fluids leads to deep-rooted feelings being brought to the surface.
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Following on from the critical and box office success of Clerks II, writer-director Kevin Smith takes us back to New Jersey to the home of hockey mad Zack (Rogen) and his non-sexual life partner Miri. After an incident with a pair of granny pants turns Miri into a viral sensation the pair recognise the 21st century shortcut to success as the way to resolving their financial hardships. I've always found Kevin Smith's work to be frustratingly interesting. Having loved the early years, I lost sight of his voice in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Perhaps it's a sign that he himself acknowledged this, by returning to the clerks who made him to tell the next part of their story before venturing out into the tricky world of sex without emotion, objectification and dick & shit jokes. In a lot of ways Zack and Miri could have been the natural sequel to Chasing Amy. Where Holden, Banksy and Alyssa went their separate ways, Zack & Miri haven't been brave enough to take that leap off the cumshot cliff until there were other reasons to do so.
Like all Smith films, Z&M is a wordy movie and though a wordy porno is one that not even R Kelly could find appealing, it plays right into Seth Rogen's wheelhouse. He's a funny, funny guy. Give him a monologue. Give him room to improvise and you will strike Beverly Hillbillies levels of gold. Elizabeth Banks is perfect casting. She's one of perhaps five actresses working in Hollywood who can trade comedic punches with the Knocked Up star. She is excellent in 30 Rock and every inch the lady version of Richard Prior... that's an odd comparison. Moving on...
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While the three main performers in the film are all newbies to Redbank, Smith populates the film with faces he knows, trusts and is loyal to. Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Mrs. Kev) makes a return to her husband's work, Jeff Anderson (Clerks, Clerks TAS, Clerks II) does some heavy lifting for someone who isn't a trained actor, and of course Jason Mewes steals the show simply by being himself; with thanks to Smith for knowing how to write for his lifelong pal. Justin Long (Dodgeball) lays down a phenomenal supporting performance and gay porn baron Brandon. It's a working relationship that clearly clicks as returning gigs in Tusk and Yoga Hosers demonstrates there's even room for Smith to work in a nod to his love of comic books with the casting of one-time Superman Brandon Routh.
Smith's work is at its best when it's dancing with emotive topics. For many, Jersey Girl was a misstep for all involved but I, for one, found it endearing. Zack and Miri talks like a baller but deep down it is a sensitive, loving partner who is just looking for someone to grow old with. One of the things that Kevin Smith does brilliantly is that he's able to bring together a group of friends for a project and include the audience on the fun. There are some movies that look as though they're more fun to make than it is to watch. Captain America: Civil War felt that way but Smith's work never does; not even Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and that was the most indulgent of Smith's movies.
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Irrespective of its faults and lapses into genre cliche, Zack and Miri has enough joy, humility and emotion to allow the audience to fall in love with a story and a story-teller who is humbled by his place in the world.