Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons
MPAA Rating: (for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use)
Running Time: 1:42
Release Date: 9/18/09
Review by Mark Dujsik
Wildly muddled, particularly miscast, and definitely trying too hard, the horror-comedy Jennifer's Body wants a lot but doesn't manage to achieve any of it. The movie is a bunch of parts that never manages a sum.
It's notable only for being the second script from Diablo Cody, whose screenplay for Juno is really a treasure, but this is not a good sign. It wouldn't surprise me to learn this script had been sitting on a shelf somewhere, tossed to an agent, and thrown into quick production to cash in as quickly as possible on her overnight success.
Jennifer's Body is a messy amalgamation of generic high school angst, bloody creature horror, BFF bonding, first-love sappiness, small town tragedy, undeserved fame study, social clique satire, and probably more that I'm missing or that are intrinsically weaved within one of the others. All of it is written—overly peppered with her unique insertion of pop-culture references and strange slang—by Cody with a sense of detached irony that feels dishonest, especially when director Karyn Kusama tries to inject subtle bits of humanity into it, which in turn feel dishonest because of the overall tone.
Our story focuses on Anita (Amanda Seyfried), who has the unfortunate-for-her nickname "Needy," and Jennifer (Megan Fox), who is the most popular girl in school in spite of being in color guard. They're best friends forever, although the relationship is strained by the girls' differing social circles. Jennifer is adored and wanted by all; Needy is loved by her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) and ignored by the rest.
Their relationship becomes really tense after Jennifer goes off with an indie band after the bar in which they were performing burns to the ground, arriving late in the night at Needy's house covered in blood and vomiting a strange, black goo.
Jennifer, it turns out, has become a succubus, a demon that, in this version, seduces and feeds on the innards of high-school boys to maintain her strength and beauty. Needy is, needless to say, not happy with this turn of events.
Jennifer ensnares and eats a few stereotyped caricatures, including the quarterback, the Goth, and the foreign exchange student, which is the fullest extent of Cody biting into social high school satire. Everything else that surrounds the central story arc feels like unnecessary weight.
All that extra poundage is directly linked to the main story, which weighs heavily upon it. The subplot with Jennifer, Needy, and the indie band becoming "heroes" after the fire is probably the most obvious. It's completely useless in the context of the movie at hand and dismissed as soon as Jennifer's demonic qualities take over (It's really a setup for its own story).
One can sense Cody attempting to force in as many ideas as possible into the movie, and it's not the only strain here.
Cody's idiosyncratic dialogue can work when it's solely seasoning to something meaty, but when the material is as weak as it is here, it becomes a sore thumb. Whether it's Jennifer telling Needy to "Move-on-dot-org" (it sounds worse than it reads) or her constant use of the term "salty," the dialogue stumbles much more than it walks.
Then there's the problem with the casting. There are plenty of young actresses out there who could tear the role of Jennifer to shreds (in a good way), but instead, it falls upon the thin and pretty Fox, whose societal function as eye-candy continues here.
Fox's performance consists of parted lips, a vapid stare, and a slight inflection of her voice when she says her lines (to, like, get across the point Jennifer doesn't care). There are moments when she appears to have no idea what to do when she's not talking—except wait for her next line. The fact her attitude remains the same after she becomes a demon is most telling. It's a performance that distinctly lacks even one choice on her part.
Of course, Kusama gives us scenes of Fox swimming naked in the lake and drying off in slow motion, undressing to reveal nothing, and other such teases because, well, they're expected. They're also incredibly out of place.
In addition, Kusama adds moments of reality to the movie in the form of mourning parents and the aftershock of the movie's climactic pool battle that aren't deserved or felt. These are admittedly little things, but in a movie that's all struggling to fit little pieces together and never accomplishing such, it's equally notable.
After an incredibly promising breakthrough, one can only hope Cody isn't an instance of a one-hit wonder, but Jennifer's Body doesn't bode well for that expectation.
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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