Friday, September 25, 2009

Jennifer's Body not so hot

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 2:23 PM


By Matt Brunson



DIRECTED BY Karyn Kusama

STARS Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried

When Diablo Cody won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the delightful Juno, I'm assuming it was less for her hip-today-gone-tomorrow dialogue and more for her creation of several ingratiating yet recognizably flawed characters as well as her deftness in telling a story with numerous emotional peaks. With her sophomore — and sophomoric — script, Cody has retained the hipster-speak but left out everything else. In Jennifer's Body, the warmth and wit have been replaced with cruelty and denseness, and what might have been a penetrating high school comedy — a new Heathers or Mean Girls — turns out to be nothing more than a cheap horror flick packed with lowbrow titillation.

Megan Fox stars as the Jennifer of the title, who lusts after desirable lads while her best friend Needy (Mamma Mia!'s Amanda Seyfried) tags behind like a stray puppy. Although they're nothing alike, the pair have remained BFFs since their days playing together in the sandbox. So when Jennifer orders Needy to break a date with her sweet boyfriend Chip (appealing Johnny Simmons) so she can accompany her to see the obscure band Low Shoulder at a ramshackle bar in the middle of nowhere, Needy dutifully complies. Once they reach the bar, though, matters take a disastrous turn, as the venue is destroyed by a fire that kills several students and Jennifer is abducted by the band members, who believe that by sacrificing a virgin as an offering to Satan, they'll be rewarded with a major-label contract (hey, it beats taking the humiliating American Idol path). Of course, Jennifer is hardly a virgin, so after they hack her up with a knife (in a scene played for queasy laughs that never materialize), she returns for some reason as a vampire-zombie-thingie that must gorge on human blood to survive.

There's always an audience for revenge fantasies, and perhaps if Jennifer had gone after misogynistic creeps, there'd be more rooting interest for her even given her demonic state — after all, sympathetic creatures have been a cinematic staple as far back as Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera, Boris Karloff's Frankenstein monster and King Kong. But Jennifer solely seems to target nice guys, which not only makes her a one-note killing machine on the order of Jason or Michael Myers but also cripples any attempts by Cody and director Karyn Kusama (after Aeon Flux and now this, a looong way from her promising debut with Girlfight) to provide any uplift or originality to a played-out genre that has traditionally been owned by male filmmakers. In fact, the pacing of Jennifer's Body can't even match that of the most rudimentary slasher flicks, especially when a poorly staged battle that should serve as the film's conclusion is followed by an endless coda that stretches well into the scrolling final credits. Ultimately, instead of serving as a much-needed role reversal take on the standard terror tale, Jennifer's Body is merely a sellout, most notably in a pointless scene in which (fanboy alert!) Jennifer and Needy briefly lock lips — a desperate sequence that's about as erotic to behold as Glenn Beck in a wet T-shirt.

Seyfried is fine as Needy, the only person who recognizes that Jennifer has become "evil evil, not high school evil." Fox, on the other hand, is dreadful. Cody's quipster cracks may have sounded natural coming out of the mouth of Juno's Ellen Page, but Fox delivers the lines as if she doesn't quite understand half the words she's uttering. She's so monotonous that it's impossible to ascertain any difference between Jennifer before she gets fatally knifed and Jennifer after she returns as a flesh-munching demon. More than anyone else, it's Megan Fox who turns Jennifer's Body into a rotting corpse of a movie.

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