Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer’s Body | Horror/Comedy | rated R (A,L,S,V,G) | starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried | 1:42 mins

Needy and Jennifer are two of Devil’s Kettle High School’s most unlikely BFFs. Needy (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia!), a bespectacled nerd, and Jennifer (Megan Fox), a promiscuous cheerleader. But the two find themselves at odds when Jennifer goes off into the woods with a rock band (Low Shoulder) and comes back a blood-thirsty, man-eating demon.

The strange, if nimble, horror/comedy Jennifer’s Body is Diablo Cody’s follow up to her Oscar-winning Juno – a movie I couldn’t stand. I admire the heck out of a writer following up an award-winner with a genre film completely unlike the one they came to fame with. But I still detest Cody’s signiture writing style. The problem with Juno and Jennifer’s Body is that her characters are all too cool for school. She zaps any realism out of them by forcing stagy dialog that attempts to turn every thing they say into a catch phrase (“you’re jell-o”, “Biffs”). But unlike Juno where this style bounced around the film untethered, Jennifer’s Body has horror/comedy genre requirements to satisfy and those requirements thankfully hold Cody’s dialog back from completely tearing up the film.

It’s not funny – bad tampon and 9/11 jokes will make sure of that – but Body is a agreeably quirky cocktail of teens, pop culture and bloody dismemberment.  Who does score laughs is overrated character actor J.K. Simmons actually in character this time as a perfectly square teacher. Actually several of the little details work to give the movie that quirky finish. My favorite being that if Demon Jennifer doesn’t feed she gets “ugly” – meaning her hair gets flat. I also like why Jennifer becomes a demon, which isn’t revealed until late in the movie because unlike many movies Jennifer’s Body really does stick strictly to only events that it’s narrator Needy knows when she knows them.

Risking a cheesy double-entendre, Jennifer’s Body looks great. Director Karyn Kusama infuses the film with a colorful visual pallette to match Cody’s quirky vision – a sharp contrast to darker serious horror movies. Kusama moves the movie quickly through the bumps of Cody’s show-offish script. It’s good genre work here and I look forward to Kusama’s next project. It’s her reconciliation of Cody’s loony story with the horror genre that make the movie work. It isn’t straight up comedy or straight up horror/comedy, but a horror movie that exists in a slightly off oddball funhouse mirror universe.

Jennifer’s Body is confined for a high school movie. It dispenses with the usual portrayals of cliques and popularity and focuses in on Jennifer, Needy, Needy’s boyfriend and a few guys that orbit around Jennifer that will ultimately make for “salty morsels”. The content is too restrained for it’s own good. Heralded before it’s release by boys everywhere just for having Megan Fox in it, Body is Fox at her least sexy ever. Often covered in blood, throwing up evil black tar or teasing the audience. That said she is playing a character here different then anything she’s played before. It’s a few small changes in her voice and attitude, but it’s something. As a star vehicle for Fox, I’ve seen a whole lot worse and much less demanding.

The movie could also stand to be a lot gorier. Jennifer’s boy-eating is kept off-screen and in the shadows where it shouldn’t have been. A little macabre would done the movie good. I liked that Jennifer doesn’t turn into a werewolf or a vampire, but some new demon entirely, which gives the movie room to play with her grotesque abilities, unrolling them sporadically for a few surprises. It does seem like they are making it up as it goes along, which for me kept it fresh all the way to the finish line.

Ironically, I went into Jennifer’s Body expecting little other then Megan Fox hotness and got the exact opposite. The Fox hotness is downplayed or splashed with blood, but the movie itself is entertaining. A weird, offbeat, but enjoyable bubble gum girl-centered spin on the genre. It wants to be a cult hit more than it probably will be, it is restrained when it should go berserk and it has more potential then it uses, but color me pleasantly surprised. That’s right, I’ll defend this movie. It’s a good trashy time.

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