This week, my better half examines the limitations of a real movie making use of a porn star, with a critique of adult-film fav Sasha Grey's performance in Steven Soderbergh's latest experiment. This leaves me no choice but to take on the photo-negative pitfalls of a porn movie looking to go legit.

I refer, of course, to Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge (which, some of you will recall, caused quite the uproar in the Maryland state senate back in April). Now, Pirates II--in which, coincidentally, one can observe Ms. Grey in her more natural habitat--is no ordinary porn flick. It is, as heavily advertised, the biggest budget porn movie of all time. It boasts a detailed plot, elaborate costumage and sets, costly special effects, scads of extras, and vastly more dialogue than necessary for an offering of this genre. So impressed with their cinematic effort are the movie's creators that they released a regular old R-rated version for sale--at a dramatically lower price, naturally. 

Porn without the hard-core bits? How pointless does that sound? But in this case, I suspect the cleaned-up version (which, admittedly, I haven't seen) works better than its more explicit cousin. Specifically, in its effort to work as mainstream entertainment, Pirates II postures itself a comedy. There are countless bad jokes; a winking, tongue-in-cheek feel to the couplings (and triplings); and the main character is a swaggering yet self-doubting buffoon played for laughs. Presumably, the film aims to capture a younger, hipper breed of viewer: 20-somethings who roll their eyes at the oily, dark, or self-serious tone of regular porn. But I'm wondering if going full-camp here isn't a step too far, with the campy, comic elements bleaching away pretty much all of the naughtiness. I've seen plenty of porn that was unintentionally laughable. But cheesy, graphic sex that you're supposed to guffaw at? This strikes me as tricky territory. 

Let's be honest: Much of what (even exceptionally well-endowed) people do in the sack can be pretty ridiculous. Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, and countless other comedians have done hysterical riffs about how dorky sex makes you look: all those flailing body parts and weird noises and stunned faces. And that's before you throw in the awkward close-ups, improbable positions, exotic toys, and other oh-so-special elements of your average porn. Add in jokes, turn the actors into clowns, and slap on an eye-patch or two and the entire endeavor slips swiftly toward farce.  

Is this a glimpse of the future of high-end adult fare? If so, I'm perplexed as to who exactly is clamoring for it. Last time I checked, most porn fans weren't trolling for laughs. And if you're just jonesing for really raunchy comedy, there are far better--and cheaper--options to be had.

Obviously, the financiers of this thigh-slapping XXX romp know their market far better than I. But I'll be interested to see at what point the efforts to expand porn's appeal begin to domesticate it into obsolescence. 

--Michelle Cottle