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How to be a Porno Producer:
A Primer on Low-Budget Independent Production
by Nick Shoveen
(In Paperback from Amazon)
. "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"

By now, the name Seth Rogen should have become synonymous with "dirty mouth, "smut" and "vulgarity." What more does any portfolio need than "Knocked Up," "Superbad" and this romantic comedy to demonstrate how he's turned obscenity into a cottage industry. And, to keep feeding it, all he needs is a game partner that anyone would think is way out of his crude frat boy reach to titillate the funny bone with a complete abandonment of taste.

If anyone can pull off this taking down of classy females to a level of raunch for the sake of lowbrow humor, pudgy Rogen has the huggability to make it seem as though it works. The idea is the production of laughter based on the surprise of unlikely mating, the intoxication of adolescent wish-fulfillment. The success of the concept is clear from the boxoffice numbers, explaining why there's been so much of it. The formula is keeping the "Animal House" crowd awake at nights.

This time out, director Kevin Smith takes the reins with one of the more beautiful rising stars to fill the spot of the not-so-demure damsel who is brought down to sewer level. The amazing thing is how Elizabeth Banks, a real heartbreaker for the male genus, meets the challenge with extraordinary versatility. She's now in a porno farce while playing Laura Bush in "W." simultaneously. And she doesn't appear to be struggling with the thematic juggle. Which is because, in addition to flawless looks, a set of choppers endorsable by the dental trade, she's an ace at her craft. Yes, she can do anything any gorgeous actress can do to convince you she has feelings for the big guy, with locker room mouth to match.

The gimmick is that Zack (rogue Rogen) and Miri (Banks), childhood pals, have been cohabiting on a platonic basis for years. Just about the time their bills are stacked beyond redemption and the loss of electrical power and water become a reality, they meet someone who puts the porno bug in their ear. After struggling with the idea of physical contact with her roomie as a means of holding on to their apartment, Miri agrees to it, and they're off.

After convincing fellow coffeehouse counterman Delaney (Craig Robinson) to spend his money on a film as the producer instead of on a flat-screen, they put together a motley assortment of actors, aka a cast, a cameraman, build sets and plan a plot and characters around "Star Wars." When bad fortune gets in the way, they're back to the coffeehouse to improvise their skin action.

Traci Lords ("Sex Waves," "Ladies in Lace") is the real thing, a real porno queen come to lend her hand and insights to Zack and Miri's film project, along with a gang of irregulars ready for just about anything, frontal nudity included.

When it's Zack and Miri's turn in front of the camera, after lots of "are you sures," the banging scene becomes an intimate, emotionally meaningful encounter in a whole new place. As one of the women castmembers observes afterward, "you were making love!!" Does that mean they're in love, with matrimony on the horizon? Not so fast.

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Despite the fact that both leads show considerable emotional insight in slowly realizing how deep their emotional attachment has become--Banks especially, being the deeper and more nuanced actor--not everyone who sees their transition is going to go home convinced of anything beyond fine craft in the service of realizing a comedic commercial concept. But, a big enough chunk of the demographic will eat it up--to make this a winning investment for the real producers.

You can take that to the bank.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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