Wow, this movie is filthy. I mean, of course it’s filthy. It’s called Zack and Miri Make a Porno, it’s directed by Kevin Smith and it stars Seth Rogen. This ain’t no Sense and Sensibility. But seriously, this movie really goes for it. In our desensitised, post-Apatow comedy landscape, it takes a lot to shock, and Smith pulls it off. However, even Judd Apatow knows a gross-out movie needs more than gross-out jokes. Zack and Miri delivers the laughs, but it feels as if Smith’s second venture outside the View Askewniverse isn’t quite the bold leap forward he was hoping to make.

Seth Rogen stars as Seth Rog-ah I mean Zack Brown, a schlubby, sex-obsessed coffee shop worker with no ambition, and seemingly no professional talents. He lives with his best friend from the first grade, Miriam ‘Miri’ Linky (Banks at her most lovable), an equally sex-obsessed nobody, albeit a far more attractive one. Neither has moved from their frosty hometown Monroeville, Pennsylvania. The two are facing a mountain of debt, and it isn’t long before their utilities are shut off. A particularly depressing high school reunion only makes matters worse. Times are tough. So they turn to porn.

OK, so their decision to enter the world of homemade erotica isn’t as instantaneous as I’ve written it, but you get the idea. Zack argues that these days porn is mainstream, and they should be able to get everyone from their graduating class to fork over $20 for a DVD of him and Miri going at it. She’s reluctant at first, but Zack assures her that having sex is simply a business venture, and that it won’t change their friendship. Haven’t they seen When Harry Met Sally? With the help of Zack’s co-worker/producer Delaney (an acerbic and scene stealing Craig Robinson), and a couple of local miscreants, Zack and Miri begin their movie making career.

Rogen and Banks are working with Smith for the first time here, but you wouldn’t know it. The two of them feel so natural, and their chemistry saves some of the film’s later faults. As mentioned, its Smith’s second foray outside of the View Askewniverse, and he leaves Dante, Randall, Jay and Silent Bob back in New Jersey. However, it’s great to see a couple of favourites like Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes turn up, and Smith has even thrown them two of the funniest scenes (one which is unprintable and the other involves an inventive sex act known as the ‘dutch rudder’). The film also enlists the talents of real-life porn stars Katie Morgan and Traci Lords. I mean, I think they’re porn stars. I, uh, I’m sure I read that somewhere, but gosh, I don’t know.

As far as laughs go, this film is up there with the best of Smith’s work. There’s something to enjoy in almost every scene, provided you enjoy extremely dirty sex jokes. The film peaks very early on at Zack and Miri’s high school reunion, with Justin Long turning up as a gay porn star and Brandon Routh as his closeted boyfriend. Unfortunately, three quarters into the film, Smith attempts to reach Chasing Amy levels of insight, while only achieving the same level of melodrama. The narrative collapses, and the closing moments clarify almost nothing. A post-credit sequence eventually wraps up the dangling plot threads, but it comes so late I’m reluctant to consider it part of the film.

Unfortunately, Zack and Miri Make a Porno isn’t Kevin Smith’s graduation into grown-up filmmaking, although he gets an A for effort. It definitely feels as if he is trying to grow as a visual filmmaker. Its hilarity is undeniable, but his often biting and shrewd commentary on relationships, love and even filmmaking are absent here. The finale comes too quickly, and feels like a bit of a cheat. Overall, Zack and Miri is little more than great foreplay that unfortunately goes nowhere. It’s intensely enjoyable for the most part, but eventually leaves you unsatisfied, and even kind of used. But at least there’s a happy ending.