• Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 42 other followers
  • Top Posts

“Twilight” in 40 words or less

Remember my friend, the self-proclaimed comedian, the one who kept “The Departed” at arm’s length only to discover it was, in fact, one of the best gangster movies ever made? (Surely you have heard of him; he is *famous* now.)

Well, from time to time he manages to say more (and be funnier) in three sentences than I can in, say, 35. So when he served up this laconic little review of “Twilight,” I had no choice (no choice, I say!) but to post it here for all the world — OK, the most awesome and gracious readers of my little free blog — to see.

So here it is, A Comedian in My Own Mind’s 40-words-or-less review of “Twilight”:

“The dialogue was forced, everyone spoke in a whisper, the makeup was horrible and the girl was not that hot. But Edward — he was dreamy. I think I want to marry him now. Damn Proposition 8.” 

(I should add, though, that the bit about marrying Edward? It’s tongue-in-cheek, not serious. Sorry, fellows.)

Congratulations, Comedian. Your 15 minutes of fame just became 30.

“Fast & Furious”: Or, You Can’t Kill Movies that Just Won’t Die

At a second viewing of “Role Models” last weekend (see it twice; it gets funnier the second time), I plopped down in my seat just in time to catch a relatively as-yet-unseen trailer for “Fast & Furious.”

Wait. Stop. Rewind. Did I trip and fall into a wormhole or a freakishly placed tear in the space-time continuum that catapulted me back to 2001 … then 2003 … followed by 2006?

Answer: No. It’s just time for another brainless, pointless installment to the undying cockroach of a movie series that is “Fast and Furious.” Apparently folks were unhappy with “Tokyo Drift,” which departed from the “look and feel of the original and the sequel.” (Yes, I have a friend who said this. Oh, where is a tape recorder when you need it?) It seems the American public demands a new “F & F” movie roughly every two years. The combination of hot dumb guys, hot, scantily-clad chicks, and vroom-vroom-car-go-fast chases is the cinematic equivalent of, say, heroin. Or at least Vicodin.

But maybe I’m biased. Flaming cars driven by sweaty heaps of testosterone into other flaming cars driven by sweaty heaps of testosterone … doesn’t really blow up my skirt. At least not more than once.

Me, I feel confident I can sit out this latest endeavor — if only because I’m angry the powers that be passed on my suggestion for a title (that would be “Faster and Furiouser”). But the whole “F & F” resurgence prompted me to think about other movie franchises that delivered a string of sequels, each more disappointing and joyless than the next. So I came up with a few examples of Viral Movie Strains.

* The “Alien” franchise — Here’s one that bucks the trend: the first, called “Alien,” was so-so, then Ridley Scott blew me away with the sequel. After that? Oh, things went terribly, terribly wrong (re: “Alien 3,” where the most interesting thing was Sigourney’s new ‘do). Then everyone’s favorite pilled-out shoplifter came onboard for “Alien: Resurrection.” The horror, the horror. The directors are partly to blame, but you’d have to point your blamethrower in four directions; no one director stayed with the franchise for more than one movie. But don’t be fooled by the eerie calm; like any self-respecting virus, I suspect that at some point someone will attempt to pump this dry well. 

* “Halloween” — Alright, alright, I hear what you’re not saying — this one’s a gimme. It’s too easy, too obvious. Well, you’re right, and that’s exactly why I picked it. (Occam’s Razor, my friends, Occam’s Razor.) As viruses go, this strain’s like Ebola, able to change its shape and mode of transmission at will. There have been too many horrible attempts to recapture the stellar original’s unassuming, unnerving charisma, too many to count. Sure, there’s such a thing as suspension of disbelief. But a killer who survives stabbings, falls from impossible heights, and being burned alive and doesn’t need a wheelchair to attack his prey? That’s just insulting, not to mention physiologically impossible.

* The “Land Before Time” letdown — When I find the numbskull who convinced the writers of this beloved childhood classic to sell out to Universal Studios — which then promptly made 897 additional “LBT” films of infinitely crappier quality and zero creativity — well, let’s just say I’ve got a can of something I’d like to share with him. And I’m not talking about Coca-Cola. Every time another movie gets released, it’s like raping the original. (Hey, Trey and Matt, make a “South Park” episode out of that one.)

That’s hardly all the offenders, but it’s a start — send in any suggestions. (“Rocky” and “Rambo” are disqualified, since the most recent releases proved to be the best of their kind.)

As for me, I’m going to go home and see if there isn’t some way we can make this whole “Faster and Furiouser” dream into a reality!

Got “Milk”?

If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s trailers. Lots of trailers. Played in every theater beginning at least six months (maybe sooner if the director’s really ambitious or particularly sadistic) before the movie in question is released. (Remember “Vantage Point”? I calculate that one played every six seconds on television and in theaters until the release.) Call it the Even-If-You-Don’t-Watch-This-Movie-You’re-Gonna-Watch-This-Movie strategy.

For the love of William H. Macy, there’s even an HD channel devoted ENTIRELY to film trailers.

All these little tidbits jump-started my flatlining after-lunch brain, energizing it with a thought — namely, where the hell is all the promotion and marketing for Sean Penn’s new biopic “Milk”?

The movie, which is set to be released Dec. 5, has been a ghost. In all my trips to the theater in the past six months, I can recall one (count it: one) trailer for the biopic about California’s first openly gay elected official Harvey Milk. I’ve seen no ads on TV, no posters … nothing.

Are the rest of you, readers, pondering what I’m pondering? Or does the cheese stand alone?

What, I wonder, could be the reasoning behind this scant promotion? Proposition 8? Sean Penn’s general aversion to publicity? A widespread conspiracy involving Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Celine Dion and the fat guy from “My Name Is Earl”?

If anyone has theories, feel free to share them. In the meantime, I’ll busy myself hatching more and more intricately absurd conspiracy theories that may, in the end, turn out to be true. (Hey, it worked for Mel in “Conspiracy Theory.”)

Eureka! I found it (the worst movie ever made)

Last summer, I was certain I had found it. “It” it. The evil version of the Holy Grail for movie lovers.

That’s right, people — last summer I went to the theater and saw “Primeval,” what I believed to be the worst movie ever made. I christened this multi-million dollar steaming crap pile as such for several reasons, including: a) the acting (dreadful), b) the special effects (hideous), c) EXTREMELY MISLEADING trailers (if you’re a true crime fan and went to see “Primeval” because the ads dubbed it a movie about “the worst serial killer in history,” you feel my pain). So mad was I that I immediately wrote a review giving it an F, a review that involved me dog-earing the “awful” entry in my handy copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. (Who knew there were so many ways to say “craptactular”?)

Then, last Friday, I discovered how wrong I was. You see, I happened upon a copy of The Worst Movie Ever Made.

If you’ve never seen The Worst Movie Ever Made (and most people haven’t), consider yourself blessed. It surpasses one’s lowest expectations; it plumbs the depths of suck. This film is in possession of not one redeeming quality — the acting is bad, the direction is bad, the editing is bad, the dialogue is bad, the plot is bad. (The scenery — that would be York, S.C., and the picturesque Winthrop University campus — is the only good thing about this whole muddled mess of a film.) It is, in fact, so bad that there currently exists no word in Merriam-Webster — I know; I’ve checked — to describe just how devastatingly, excruciatingly abominable The Worst Movie Ever Made is. (OK, so maybe I did find a FEW words.)

Oh, you don’t believe me? Go ahead; put it in your Netflix queue and see for yourself. If you don’t believe it is the worst DTHM (Dead Teenager Horror Movie, that is) you’ve ever seen, I will personally eat the DVD.

Which, perhaps, would be a far more useful thing to do than ever, ever, EVER watch The Worst Movie Ever Made again.

(Let’s compare notes — send in your suggestions for The Worst Movie Ever Made. I’m always eager to scrape the bottom of the cinema barrel.)

“Role Models” a smart, funny take on Inspirational Teen Movie

Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Paul Rudd bond over fake medieval warfare in "Role Models."

Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Paul Rudd bond over fake medieval warfare in"Role Models."

Of the many movies I’ve seen, “Role Models” holds an unusual honor: It’s the funniest movie I almost didn’t see. In fact, you might say it was the movie I’d decided I could almost not see at all. (Mull that over for a moment; it will make sense eventually.)

Allow me to explain. There’s a simple reason for this which involves just three words: Seann William Scott. You see, I gave SWS the benefit of the doubt after “American Pie,” when his nympho rants seemed original if completely unfunny. I did so again after “Road Trip.” Then “Dude, Where’s My Car?” came along and nearly convinced me to lobotomize myself with the nearest sharp object. I was no longer in a charitable mood. Even when SWS is not Stifler, he’s still Stifler.

Then “Role Models” came along, and I realized what SWS had been missing: Paul Rudd. Somehow Rudd (He of the Droll, Piercing Offhand Zinger) and Scott click onscreen in this occasionally shocking, unpredictably touching potty-mouthed comedy. It’s Rudd and Scott’s comic chemistry — coupled with sharp writing and a cast of top-talent actors — that makes “Role Models” something more than an ad for Boys and Girls Club of America.

How do these chaps know each other? Well, Rudd is Danny Donahue, a grumpy, discontent 30something who makes a living selling Minotaur energy drinks that, when consumed in great quantities, turn his urine green. He does all the talking (”don’t take drugs, kids; drink Minotaur”) while his horny, beer-chugging coworker Wheeler (SWS) dons a Minotaur costume. Danny hates everything, including cup sizes at Starbucks (his rant on “venti” versus “large” is classic), Wheeler loves everyone, and so they have nothing in common. Nothing, that is, until Danny runs the company truck up a school fountain and saddles them both with possible jail time. But instead Danny’s girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks, who, it seems, has accomplished a personal goal of being in every movie released in November), a lawyer, gets them 150 hours of community service at Sturdy Wings, a mentoring program run by ex-alcoholic/ex-cokehead Gayle Sweeney (Jane Lynch, perhaps the most underrated comic actress working today).

Here’s where “Role Models” takes flight. Enter Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a 10-year-old whose first order of business is accusing Wheeler of “grabbing my junk.” Just wait; the profanity gets better, and it’s shocking every time. Thompson’s a natural. McLovin (that would be Christopher Mintz-Plasse for those who lived under a rock in 2007) finds pain, intelligence and self-awareness in Augie Farks, a teen outcast obsessed with a medieval war game that’s part “Dungeons & Dragons,” part Medieval Times. These young actors accomplish something we don’t expect: They create characters as touching as they are surprising. It’s first-rate work from two relative newcomers, and it goes above and beyond what’s required of the standard Inspirational Teen Movie (ITM).

But back to Rudd and Scott. Rudd makes Danny into a kind of 21st-century Everyman who uses humor not to conceal his anger but to reveal it. He helped write the script, but I suspect that’s not why he has some of the best lines. It’s his delivery that makes every tidbit priceless. (Listen to him transform a misheard lyric in Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite” into a screamingly funny commentary on his life.) Scott has toned down his manic energy nicely, and Wheeler — a sort of grown-up Stifler — makes a nice foil for Rudd’s droll misanthrope. I know not how or why, but it works.

Which, of course, could be said of “Role Models.” There’s a cookie-cutter plot, a see-it-from-miles-away ending, but this sharp little comedy just clicks. It almost makes me want to give SWS one last chance.


Grade: B+

Paris and Todd? That’s not hot

I’ve been a fan of Todd Solendz — an indie filmmaker who aims for the funny bone and breaks every other one on the way in — since “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” possibly the darkest, most unrelentingly honest movie ever made about adolescent isolation. So imagine my elation when I heard a few stirrings and rustlings about his plans to make a “part sequel, part variation” to “Happiness.” (Haven’t seen it? Words won’t do it justice, so let’s call it a “hellishly funny dark comedy/ensemble drama” and leave it at that. Whatever I say won’t prepare you, trust me.) The cast includes Allison Janney and Paul “Peewee Herman” Reubens, both masters of the deadpan remark. My thrill level knows no bounds.

Then I discovered something that made my heart shrivel up: Paris Hilton is going to act in it (see http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_solondz).

No, you didn’t just have a seizure. (Or if you did, your eyes still work fine.) Paris Hilton, the epitome of everything that is wrong with the free world — no, THE ENTIRE WORLD — is part of the cast.

*Ducks under the desk to cry quietly but hysterically, then pretends to be cleaning up a box of paper clips that “accidentally spilled.”*

But, okay, I’m trying to be open-minded. Solendz is essentially a cinematic genius who’s not afraid to get in touch with his amoral side, so perhaps he has plans for Paris’ role.

I just hope it involves a gruesome, painful, prolonged torture scene with “Stars Are Blind” on repeat in the background.

Pacing, performances hit hard in Eastwood’s “Changeling”


Angelina Jolie confronts a corrupt LAPD captain (Jeffrey Donovan) in "Changeling."

It’s a filmmaker’s neverending dilemma: how to distill a decades-spanning true story into a movie that’s a) short enough to keep viewers’ attention and b) long enough to do its characters’ real-life counterparts justice. Look to “Changeling” for the answer. The haunting, unnervingly tense thriller — file these adjectives under “use for any/all Clint Eastwood movies” — clocks in at 160 minutes but seems much shorter, thanks to careful pacing and measured performances.

Topping that list of said performances is Jolie’s impressively restrained but effective turn as Christine Collins, a single mother mired deep into every parent’s elemental fear: the unexplained disappearance of a child. Though Jolie is an Eastwood newcomer, she’s a natural (Dirty Harry, after all, tends to pick actors known more for restraint than over-the-top fits of hysteria). She hits every one of the cycles of grief but never once “acts” like a grieving mother; she is one.

The cause for that grief is the too-horrible-to-be-fake story of Collins, who returns home from a Saturday shift in 1928 to discover her son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) missing. The smug LAPD captain she calls (Jeffrey Donovan sporting an indecipherable accent) could care less about a missing child — until radio broadcast preacher Gustav Briegleb (an impressive Malkovich) takes up her cause. Then Capt. Jones happens upon a homeless lad (Arthur Hutchins) and sees an opp for good publicity. So he dumps in Collins’ lap while insisting — to the media and a horrified Collins — that it’s Walter. The mistake leads to a department-wide coverup, particularly when cops pick up fast-talking drifter Gordon Northcott (a skin-crawlingly creepy Jason Butler Harner) for butchering 20 children.

This begs many questions. Was Walter his victim? Did he die, dirty and frightened, inside a chicken coop like so many others? Or did he escape to freedom and remain hidden out of fear? I will not answer these questions, and neither does Eastwood. Ever the shrewd, careful director, he doesn’t force an ending that never existed for the sake of “drama.” (Expect Hollywood’s version of closure and you’re sure to be disappointed.) Instead, he hones his focus on the intersecting stories of Collins and Northcott. Better still, he paces “Changeling” to mirror the unfolding of these stories: things come to pass slowly and then all at once. Yes, as the film winds to a close, one story steamrolls right into the other; it’s impossible to separate them, and so Eastwood doesn’t. It’s a wise choice, since Jolie and Harner do great work.

In fact, it’s Harner who commands much of the screen in the film’s third act. He’s an actor who’s made no name for himself in TV roles and movie bit parts; not anymore. This is the kind of performance that ought to merit critical praise but, sadly, probably won’t (Jolie’s got better bone structure, you see, and her lips look better coated in ruby-red lipstick). He ratchets up the creepiness factor by playing down the malice; his Northcott is more slimy sycophant than slice-and-dice killer. He smooths his hair, lobs a clever remark to mobs of reporters, even flirts with Collins at his trial. Too bad Ted Bundy’s a 20th-century killer; he could have learned a thing or too from Harner. He’s that good.

Other players, too, make “Changeling” feel more real, less maudlin. Note the work of Amy Ryan as a smart-mouthed and street-smart prostitute with more than a few skeletons in her closet. Here’s to hoping she never becomes a leading lady; it will ruin her for tarnished, character-rich parts like this. And kudos to Malkovich, who goes against type as a reverend who’s neither preachy nor weepy. He’s a quiet man, indeed, but one with a mission he refuses to compromise.

Which, of course, could be said of Eastwood: He’s a director on a mission, and that mission is to tell this true story with as little pretense — and no bells or whistles or unnecessary hysterical crying jags — as possible. Mission accomplished.

Grade: B+

Top 5 “WTF?” moments in Scorcese’s “The Departed”


"OMG WTF?": Damon's shock won't compare to your own as "The Departed" slams one "WTF?" moment after another over your head.

So I have this friend. (Every truly interesting story begins this way, right?) You may have heard of him; his story is the stuff of urban legend. Or it should be. At any rate, he’s the guy who let a copy of “The Departed” — that would be the 2007 Oscar winner for Best Picture, savvy readers — gather dust on his TV stand for, oh, about six months. Yes, it sat there, untouched, unappreciated, unwanted and unwatched for six months. I’d mention it periodically (re: “aren’t you ever going to watch that?”) and he’d make some noise about not being able to make “that kind of commitment” to sit down and watch it. (He fancies himself something of a comedian, this one.)

Then one day something crazy and momentous happened: He watched it. And watched it again … and again … and again. (I can’t hazard a guess at how many times he’s seen the various parts in various orders; however, I suspect the number would make me cringe with laughter.) So you might say he’s become something of a “Departed” connoisseur.

It’s not surprising that during a recent discussion of great gangster films (“GoodFellas”: hell yes; “Miller’s Crossing”: I say also yes) “The Departed” came up. Of course, you can’t discuss “The Departed” without saying the words “what the f!@#$!?” (in that order and with an infinite number of inflections) roughly 30 times. It’s a film littered with “WTF?” moments; I’d bet my next paycheck it has, minute for minute, more “WTF?” moments than any movie ever made (excluding “Syriana,” which makes less sense the more I watch it, and “The Usual Suspects”).

So behold the birth of the newest list: The Top 5 “WTF?” moments in “The Departed.” (Note: There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the movie (a) I blow my nose at you and (b) Stop reading, get off your duff and buy — not rent — it.)

5) Baby daddy drama: A weary, lonely shrink (the divine Vera Farmiga). Her is-he-or-isn’t-he? impotent fiancee (Matt Damon). Her hardscrabble but kind-hearted patient (Leo DiCaprio). Oh, what a love triangle it is, and in the next-to-last scene in “The Departed” we viewers — heads still reeling from Number 1 on this countdown — discover the head doc is in a family way. That’s surprise enough, but better still is Scorcese’s absolute refusal to divulge the father-to-be’s identity. (Even if you think you know, you can’t prove it.) I do so love a director who pimp-slaps me around.

4) Sweet revenge (the final scene): The last five minutes of “The Departed” kick you in the face, throw you to the ground so you can pick up the teeth you lost and then lift your spirits with a blackly comic and satisfying ending where Matt Damon’s charmed life meets a dramatic end — but in a way you’d never, EVER expect and with an abundance of sarcasm and satire. Consider it the bittersweet cherry topper on this “WTF?” sundae.

3) A guy walks into a warehouse … and gets thrown off it: Talk about a twisted punchline to that old joke. Captain Queenan/Martin Sheen’s untimely demise is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shockers, something so totally and wholly unexpected that even the shrewdest viewer/critic can’t see it coming. Once the shock wears off (it takes at least 10 minutes), the full impact will have you whispering “WTF?” with the particular abject hopelessness of a duped moviegoer who knows no explanation is forthcoming.

2) Will the real FBI informant please stand up?: So we have a rat who’s pretending to be looking for a rat … and a rat who’s pretending not to be a rat while looking for his own rat. Confused? A careful viewing of Jack Nicholson’s role in the second half of “The Departed” will clear up the mystery. Get used to whiplash; you won’t be shaking your head in disbelief so much as whipping it around constantly “Exorcist”-style. My response? W. T. F?.

1) I get capped, you get capped, we all get capped: This one will make you want to pull the “emergency stop” button before the elevator parks at your floor. This blow-your-mindhole moment inaugurates — with a very literal bang — a slew of gangland-style executions that become more shocking as the brain matter coats the walls. You’ve never seen a death scene this shocking — NEVER; it bears repeating — and you won’t again. It will have you reeling for days; in fact, it might have you shrieking “WTFF?” (“what the effing f?” of course). Thus, it is deserves the honor of being christened the Number 1 “WTF?” moment in “The Departed.”

An action trifecta is born!

They’re gonna give us a war we can’t believe.

Yep, the rumors have been confirmed by Daily Variety: Rambo, Jet “I Punched You 32 Times in 5 Seconds” Li and The Transporter/Jason Statham will pool their collective acting talents (so it’ll be more of a wading pool, really) in “The Expendables.”

Stallone, not surprisingly, is pulling a Streisand — these days we might call it a “Clint Eastwood” — and writing, directing and starring in the what is certain to be an explosion-heavy, plot-lite tale of mercenaries out to overthrow a South American dictator. Filming (in Louisiana and Costa Rica) starts in February.

Mark me down as “stoked.” (Remember: This is the chick who hates chick flicks.) Stallone, Li AND Statham in the same movie? It’s a harmonic convergence of events that’s “Perfect Storm”-like in its strange and frightening beauty. Explosions? Check. Shootouts? Done. Bodies riddled with bulletholes, chopped up with machetes or blown to McNugget-sized proportions? Please.

But a word to movie critics: Don’t ruin it for the rest of us by tossing out words like “plot” or “dialogue” or (cue violent shudder) “character development.” You want a complex moral quandary, an existential crisis of sorts? Rent “No Country for Old Men” and shut your trap.

Smith returns with heartfelt grossout “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen are porn stars (in their own minds) in "Zack and Miri Make a Porno."

Comedian Rita Rudner once remarked that before meeting her husband she’d never fallen in love but had “stepped in it a few times.” The same can be said of the hapless title characters in writer/director Kevin Smith’s pottymouthed, big-hearted “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” Pals Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) spend 10 years stepping in mistakes only to realize — with the help of the chummiest porn film crew ever — they could have fallen into something big.

And such, too, is the case with Smith, who catalogued a few missteps of his own with the shamelessly sentimental “Jersey Girl” and the sorta-funny but mostly disappointing “Clerks II.” With its endless parade of raunchy sex gags, full-frontal nudity (female AND male), bodily fluid jokes and profanity-laden dialogue, though, “Zack and Miri” is no misstep. If anything, it signals something big: the return of an artist reclaiming his favorite medium.

That’s not to say “Zack and Miri” is perfect; it’s just the perfect Kevin Smith rom-com. Consider the left-of-center plot: Twentysomething roommates Zack and Miri, friends since first grade, share a rundown Pittsburgh apartment that lacks decoration and, thanks to some frivolous spending on sex toys, both electricity and running water. Dejected, Zack and Miri hole up in a dive bar to regroup, and Zack hatches his “brilliant” plan: He and Miri can — you’ll never guess! — make a porno, distribute it to their senior class (they’ve got the mailing list since they just suffered through their 10-year reunion) and make a bundle, or at least enough to turn on the water and power.

True to form, “Zack and Miri” succeeds because Smith dusts off a few of his trademarks (which, I suspect, must have been tucked away in storage since before “Jersey Girl”). First, there’s the “shock and awe” dialogue. Granted, these days the F-word is hardly shocking, but Smith’s script includes enough of it — and several other choice four-letter words — that it’s a wonder the film wasn’t slapped with an “NR” rating. But Smith mixes the profane with the profound, throwing in a few insightful lines (Zack and Miri’s attempts to name their porno; Miri’s riff on “period panties”) that make the profanity easier to take.

Another Smith hallmark? A cast of wacky secondary characters that amps up the comedy and, on occasion, provides unexpected insight. Smith newcomer Craig Robinson gets some of the film’s biggest laughs playing Delaney, an unhappily married man who just wants “to see some free titties.” (He should, henceforth, be known as Craig Robinson, not That Warehouse Guy from “The Office.”) Real-life porn stars Katie Morgan (Stacey, an airhead stripper) and Traci Lords (Bubbles, who got the name because she can blow bubbles using her … uh, best you find out for yourself) have cameos, and Jason Mewes (a.k.a. Jay) manages to make his character, a legend-in-his-own-mind womanizer, somehow likable. Even Randall (Jeff Anderson) of “Clerks” fame shows up to join the fun … and ends up with something (hint: it’s not egg) all over his face.

And, of course, there are the leads we can’t help rooting for. Rogen’s managed to make being a pudgy, schleppy dork ubercool, even sexy, and he revives that routine here to great comic effect. He’s exactly right to play the guy you never knew you always wanted. Banks, who’s slowly come into her own as a comic actress, hits all the right notes as a high school dweeb-turned-hot chick who hasn’t quite grown into her new skin. (Put glasses and some overalls on her and she could play the Pretty Ugly Girl in yet another teen movie spoof.)

A few critics have argued Banks and Rogen don’t generate much romantic chemistry; I beg to differ. There are sparks there, but they’re the kind expected of two people who stumbled into something life-changing but totally unforseen. Their interactions are a bit awkward, halting, tentative; Miri says the wrong thing, Zack fumbles with a button, and neither wants to admit what’s going on. But all that culminates in the one of the sweetest, most believable sex scenes ever filmed. The reason? There’s no trace of artifice in the entire sequence; every part of it feels real (well, as real as it can considering it’s Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, not Zack and Miri). They say the wrong things, they can’t find this zipper or that belt loop, they don’t know where to put their hands. It’s awkward and ungainly, but in a way that’s completely disarming, funny and endearing.

That said, “Zack and Miri” has its share of flaws. At 112 minutes, it’s a bit long-winded, the feces jokes get old after, oh, about 30 minutes, the “serious talk” moments fizzle and the ending is disappointingly predictable. But every minute of “Zack and Miri” is vintage Kevin Smith, and that alone is cause for celebration. And that, as Banky might say, is cause for a “shared moment.”

Grade: B+