If you're looking forward to seeing Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks in director Kevin Smith's new R-rated comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" this weekend and you live in Salt Lake City, you might be out of luck. Utah Jazz and Megaplex Theaters owner Larry Miller has refused to book the film. The chain's spokesman Cal Gunderson expressed concerns about the film with The New York Post, citing the film's "graphic nudity and graphic sex" and that it was "too close to an NC-17."
The company's standards seem a little odd considering that the chain had no problems screening ultra-violent fare like "Saw V," which features beheadings and explicit self-mutilation. When asked why Megaplex Theaters did not object to the gory horror sequel, Gunderson had no comment.
Furthermore, the company's decision might make sense if "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" were in fact pornographic. Instead, Kevin Smith's surprisingly tame and sentimental movie has a few flashes of nudity, a handful of love scenes played mostly for laughs, and a whole lot of foul language. In fact, the film's raunchiness level is comparable to that of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", "Knocked Up" and "Sex Drive," all of which screened at Megaplex theaters.
It has been a difficult road for Kevin Smith's film, but it is not the first time he has encountered resistance to his frank and bawdy sense of humor. His first film "Clerks" was originally rated NC-17 for language, and his religious comedy "Dogma" sparked protests from Catholic groups. For "Zack and Miri," he again was forced to appeal an NC-17 rating with the MPAA, a teaser trailer had to be removed from his website, and the battle over the poster resulted in a design where the stars only appear as stick figures.
So what's the problem with this movie? The word "Porno" in the title. Aside from Larry Miller's theater chain, fifteen newspapers along with several TV stations and billboard owners have been refusing to promote the flick across the country because of that word. As Philadelphia deputy mayor Rina Cutler said in a phone interview with The Wall Street Journal, "If they want to call the movie 'Zack and Miri,' that's fine, but Zack and Miri cannot make a porno on my bus shelters."
This isn't the first time Miller's company caused controversy by banning a movie. In early 2006, Miller pulled Oscar-nominated movie "Brokeback Mountain" from the screens when he learned that the film was a gay love story between two cowboys. He later stated that he regretted that decision.
As a footnote to this story, this past weekend an audience full of children and pre-teens expecting to see the G-rated "High School Musical 3" at one of Miller's theaters in South Jordan, UT were surprised when the beginning of the R-rated "Sex Drive," which features nudity and swearing, was shown accidentally. But at least they didn't see Seth Rogen in his underwear.
"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" opens everywhere (almost) on Friday.