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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look: 21.57%
Average: 17.65%
Pretty Bad: 15.69%
Total Crap39.22%

6 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Jennifer's Body
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by Erik Childress

"Megan Fox Half-Demon? I'll Be Damned."
1 stars

Nobody is going to care that Karyn Kusama directed Jennifer’s Body. Except maybe those looking to finally declare her debut of Girlfight as a flash in the pan. All eyes won’t even be on Megan Fox as the titular body as she flashes less skin than she did in How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. No sir, this is Diablo Cody’s anticipated follow-up screenplay to her Oscar-winning debut of Juno. The backlash for her overly hip, twisty dialogue in that film was palpable and at some point overshadowed much of the well-earned praise that tauted her as one of the more exciting female writers to come along in years. Elaine May and Tina Fey aren’t going to be losing their placement on that list anytime soon as Cody takes a gigantic leap backwards with Jennifer’s Body, a pathetically worthless horror piece from nearly top to bottom that fails in virtually genre and subgenre it wanders into.

The heroine of the film is the unfortunately nicknamed “Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried). She’s the glasses-wearing, goody-good from every high school but she’s hardly an outcast. She has an equally middle-of-the-road nerdy boyfriend in Chip (Johnny Simmons) and her best friend since the sandbox days is Jennifer (Megan Fox), seemingly the hottest and most popular girl in school. Hoping to bag the lead singer (Adam Brody) of an indie rock band, Jennifer drags Needy to a local dive bar. Thanks to her extraordinary hearing, Needy senses the band might be up to no good. Jennifer is literally hypnotized by their music though and while she’s taken away in their van, the bar burns to the ground with many of the patrons unable to escape.

Needy makes her way back home though and is soon struck by a visit from Jennifer. To her shock though, her friend is covered in blood, has an abnormal appetite and is vomiting black, spikey goo all over her kitchen. The next day in school Jennifer appears just fine. She looks pretty darn good to the football player she takes into the woods too. Until sharp teeth appear from her elongated mouth and she guts the guy. Although not a direct witness to her carnage, Needy notices the changes and begins to suspect her friend may have been corrupted by a demon. And not one named Michael Bay.

Jennifer’s Body joins the subgenre of cheeky, revenge-themed tales of mousy girls transformed into sexed-up packages that their tormenters can’t resist – a la Tamara, Necromancer or Girlfriend From Hell. (Yes, I’m well versed in this particular area.) Except this isn’t really a tale about revenge – she’s just hungry – and no one would ever accuse Megan Fox of being mousy even if you put her in a ponytail and Harry Caray glasses. As for the cheeky part, Diablo Cody’s dialogue is a standout. To even greater effect than it was Juno because of how forced and practically out-of-place it all seems. Perhaps being accustomed to her writing style doesn’t help matters but the flow is all discombobulated while the plot desperately searches for itself.

What is supposed to be, we suspect, some woman scorned parable against the gawking date rapers of the world never manifests into anything coherent. Jennifer’s urge is not towards righting the wrong against her attackers. The proverbial band from hell doesn’t even make another appearance until the end except as this film’s teen pop anthem - not unlike the suicide song from Heathers. Rather, Jennifer is fulfilling her own needs, taking from random guys in her own slutty way to sustain her glowy appearance. Hardly a metaphor for teen sexuality, three of Jennifer’s four victims are harmless, nerdy types that project no threat to the fairer sex. Nor does Cody appear to empathize with her prey as guys who should just know better not to take Megan Fox up on the offer of free sex. Either we’re horny or we’re idiots. We can’t win.

Through all my vitriol directed at the Transformers films, I have often laid off Megan Fox’s acting abilities since she was hired for one purpose and fulfilled that obligation quite honorably. Her comments to the press also suggest a good head on her shoulders and an acknowledgment that she knows why she’s getting hired. With a golden opportunity to take her career to a more respected level, Fox accentuates everything her worst critics have stated to date in that she should be seen more and heard less. Jennifer is written as played; a cocksure twit with occasional flashes of chic Cody-style adjectives. Not far off from her character in How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, but portrayed almost identically. If Cody honestly wanted to make a statement about “high school evil” then Jennifer needs to be more than just a clueless entity worthy of concern by her best friend. Are we being asked to sympathize with her as a victim even though Cody all but introduces her as the insensitive cliché asking for it? Jennifer clearly maintains a semblance of her former self, so its unclear why the evil side of her would embark on the path that it does. And if she’s not entirely a demon, is the non-half worth saving? Fox plays both underwritten halves as equals thus confusing matters ever further. Even in the area of seduction, Fox can’t muster up any manner of sultriness that makes her a siren of impenetrable desire and impossible rejection. In the scheme of things, Kusama and Cody should have instantly recognized that the roles of Needy and Jennifer were in desperate need of a body switch.

Seyfried, a great young actress who could show Fox a thing or two about playing the oblivious dumb-dumb in Mean Girls, is the only one who appears to be trying to give the film what it deserves. Stuck with the straight role that has to react to the horror occurring around her, Seyfried delivers solid, believable work in what could have simply been a throwaway performance. It begs the query though why the script wasn’t reversed to make Seyfried’s Needy the mousy, sexpot avenger. Cody could have satirized the conventions of the hot girl lurking underneath a wardrobe change while, at the same time, dressing down the current male fantasy into a package of insecurity and the irony that time is usually kinder to the squares. It wouldn’t have been the most original screenplay, but it’s one that Cody could have had a lot more fun with and given Seyfried a chance to succeed where Fox so clearly fails.

Jennifer’s Body is not a fun film in any respect. In fact, its occasionally quite ugly in the scenes involving the band’s true intentions. It’s typical horror scenes are mishandled badly by Kusama, who may have one or two interesting shots up her sleeve, but delivers no meaningful tension or plays up the conceit of Needy’s exceptional hearing. After two early moments, that idea is totally dropped. Framed with a wraparound story that only spells out precisely what we would have guessed the ending was anyway, Jennifer’s Body does keep us on tilt as to what’s going to happen next. Mainly because it seems to have no idea either. Those unable to see Diablo Cody’s more challenging take on personality disorder in Showtime’s The United States of Tara are going to have a field day picking out each punctuated piece of dialogue on display here which comes off like a kind of dismal parody of her style as seen in the aggravating representation of Juno in Disaster Movie. By the moment a character is stabbed through the chest and then asks “got a tampon?”, you will certainly be ready for the bleeding to stop as well.

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originally posted: 09/18/09 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/12/18 Mark Louis Baumgart A fun little time-killer with two pretty leads. I was entertained and not bored. 4 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell it sux dont watch it 1 stars
6/02/11 art IT HAD OVERTONES OF GINGER SNAPS,but it was a TREAT REGARDLESS!,watch this flick! 4 stars
5/10/11 Shaun A So bad it's good. 3 stars
6/01/10 art this reminds me of 1987's HELLO MARY LOU PROM NIGHT 2, but regardless THIS WAS GREAT! 4 stars
1/14/10 art A BIZZARE FABLE!,to say the least! 3 stars
12/17/09 Lenny Zane Best post-MEAN GIRLS performance by any member of MEAN GIRLS Cast. 5 stars
11/20/09 Jessica Contrary to many people, I think the movie is quite good and very interesting. 5 stars
11/14/09 DK A notch down from "Juno", but entertaining none the less. Fox and Seyfried are impressive 3 stars
11/06/09 Tiffany Thunderhurst Best horror film since EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. Amanda Seyfried is superb! 5 stars
9/28/09 Doogin Not a shred of talent on display from any of the people involved... Cody is a hack. 1 stars
9/25/09 Clare The unearned condescention oozing form your review is disturbing. Man, did you ever miss it 4 stars
9/25/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Missed many chances to entertain. She's evil... but just high school evil. 2 stars
9/21/09 I worry, somewhat, that male designers design more for men, and that perhaps female designe 4 stars
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  18-Sep-2009 (R)
  DVD: 29-Dec-2009


  DVD: 29-Dec-2009

Directed by
  Karyn Kusama

Written by
  Diablo Cody

  Megan Fox
  Amanda Seyfried
  Johnny Simmons
  Adam Brody
  J.K. Simmons
  Amy Sedaris

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