Why is it that Kevin Smith keeps trying to make sensitive-minded and innovative movies about relationships? And why do his relationship movies keep getting dumber and more clichéd? The premise behind Zack and Miri Make a Porno—two minimum-wage slaves have to make a porn film to save themselves from bankruptcy—is a pretty great idea. It's too bad the movie doesn't have the balls to back up its risqué concept with any new insight into love or relationships.
Virtually all the elements are in place for a Knocked Up–style romantic-comedy confection. Seth Rogen plays Zack as the exact same Seth Rogen character we've seen in every other Seth Rogen movie, but remarkably, he's still charming and funny. Elizabeth Banks, although way too beautiful to be convincingly slumming with Rogen's barista man-child, is believable as a bawdy tomboy who can wallow in the dirty jokes just as giddily as the boys.
The porn jokes are perfectly stupid-funny. And—perhaps due to the gracious lack of Ben Affleck—the casting is better than just about every other Smith movie. Craig Robinson is much funnier and smarter than the awkward "I hate/love my dumbass wife" jokes Smith provides him, but the other actors—Traci Lords as a porn star, Jason Mewes as an idiot, Brandon Routh as a vaguely closeted gay actor—are spot-on. The first half of the film, with its queef jokes and relaxed pun humor (Star Whores is always funny) is delightful.
But then Smith had to go and try to spackle the movie's nasty cracks with a sugary-sweet, clichéd romance, and the ham-handed results make Chasing Amy look like Anna Karenina. Porno raises so much goodwill in its first half that you want to forgive the bitter sap of the second, but there's so much of it, and it's so very bad, that the innate sexiness of the film is battered into docility. Did you realize that there's a difference between fucking and making love? HORK! I think my penis threw up a little bit in my pants.