Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Zack and Miri Make a Porno</strong> (2008)

(On DVD, December 2015) Watching Zack and Miri a few years later, knowing the trajectory of mainstream American comedy films toward the Judd Apatow model, becomes an exercise in pinpointing the passing of the torch from Kevin Smith to Apatow, with Smith basically capitulating and trying to ape Apatow’s style.  There’s some logic in this evolution: Smith is, after all, largely responsible for normalizing bad language and sexual references in mainstream comedy.  Seeing him pass the baton to Apatow feels like a natural succession.  It doesn’t help that Zack and Miri feels a lot closer to Apatow’s films than to Smith’s ones.  From the raunchy subject matter to the chaste execution, passing by the presence of Seth Rogen in a lead role and some improvisation breaking through Smith’s usually tightly-scripted style, this is a film that would look undistinguishable as part of Apatow’s filmography.  For Smith, Zack and Miri is something strange: A not-so-good, now-derivative script combined with what is perhaps the slickest direction of his career so far.  There are a few laughs, but much of the film’s emotional arc is predictable, although viewers will be asked to suffer through other people’s misery for a rather long time on the way to a happy conclusion.  The wall-to-wall profanity gets tiresome and feels like endless immaturity; the sexual content is handled in a way designed to neuter it of anything but comic value.  It’s not a bad film, but it now probably doesn’t feel as edgy or clever as Smith originally intended.  The torch, as I said, has been passed.

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