Two things will help almost anyone who might otherwise balk to get past the title of the very funny, very adolescent and very raunchy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" - the title of which has proved to be far more "in your face" than the filmmaker intended.
The first thing is to look at its Apatow stock company cast - stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks - and realize it's the fall entry in the Apatow genre, even though it's a genre Smith actually invented (i. e. ultra-raunch adolescent boy comedy with a core of pure sentimental mush).
The second is to think of Rogen and Banks in this film as the new and not-so-improved 2008 version of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, doing their own glandular, nonmusical and funny as hell version of a "hey kids, let's put on a show" movie.
Remember, of course, that's what Kevin Smith really did with "Clerks," the utterly hilarious, micro-budget, foul-mouthed scamp movie that launched him as one of our most lovable film comics.
Smith, in interviews, admits his new movie is weirdly autobiographical in a way (though, he hastens to add, there was no "Miri" in his life when he turned into a kind of serious filmmaking "Zack").
Zack and Miri are a couple of post-grad kids in Pittsburgh living chastely together as BFFs. Miri (Banks) is, by any standards, quite gorgeous. Zack, by any standards, is a fat slob - and compulsively funny in his constant uncensored rudeness, too. Their lives as roommates are intimately funky but not intimate. An occasionally neglected flush, for instance, causes no major blowups.
The trouble is the rent's overdue and the water gets shut off (anyone who has ever spent an afternoon without water will tell you that running water is indeed the essence of civilization). What to do? What to do?
Hence the solution propounded by the film's title. How bad could it be, they figure? Just film it after hours in the coffee emporium where Zack works.
So they do. And they round up the cast, which is Smith's very jolly special joke in this movie, including the real ditsy genius porn star Katie Morgan and legendary porn jailbait Traci Lords (she plays Bubbles; use your imagination). It also includes Justin Long as a gay porn star named Brandon and Brandon Routh (the last Superman) as his lover whose last name is Long. Routh's presence is a delightful joke on everyone (producer Jon Peters, director Tim Burton) who had anything to do with NOT making a "Superman" movie out of a Smith script.
Zack and Miri plan a scene for themselves in the movie. You'll see the "awww, ain't that sweet" ending coming from the opening frames, but stay for the movie's funny pseudo-promotional epilogue.
Kevin Smith may very well be too old for movies like this, but then everyone who saw the press screening of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival was too old to be laughing as much as we did, too.
ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
Three stars (Out of four)
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, Katie Morgan, Brendan Routh and Justin Long
DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
RATING:R for wall-to-wall foul language and raunchiness, including some nudity and sex.
THE LOWDOWN: The movie's title tells you everything you need to know about the plot of Kevin Smith's ribald sentimental comedy.