Friday, September 18, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Here's what I learned from Jennifer's Body.

1) Academy Award nominated screenwriters are just as good at writing mediocre horror flicks as everyone else.

2) People should really stop giving ├ćon Flux director Karyn Kusama work.

3) Asked to do some real acting, and without Michael Bay's lascivious ogling lens, Megan Fox (who isn't allowed to straddle motorcycles in cut-offs here) isn't nearly the same sexy siren her fans drooled over in the Transformers franchise.

The film isn't awful, but it wastes what little it brings to the table by serving up a lukewarm TV dinner that fails to satisfy. Jennifer's Body makes several errors on it's way to Best Buy's DVD bargain bin, some of which I've summarized below.

You'd think casting Megan Fox as the high school bitchy best friend man-eating (literally!) cheerleader would be a plus. Although this role is all Fox could hope for, her flaws really start to show. She's simply not much of an actress when her daily call-sheet calls for anything more than to look hot. And although Amanda Seyfried fares better on camera, she's horribly miscast as the dorky and homely best friend. In her narration, Seyfried states the two are so different that no one can understand their friendship. Really? And pulling her hair back and giving her glasses may work in teen rom-coms, but here it's just one of many stupid, stupid decisions.

Un-titilating Titillation
Early web gossip for the film has been fascinated with two things: Megan Fox's skinny-dipping scene and Fox and Seyfried's lesbian scene. If this is all you care about, let me save you $10. There's no nudity in the first, and the second might titillate a 12-year-old but it goes nowhere fast, and, even worse, makes no sense when it occurs in the film. Why would Needy (horrible name for Seyfried's character by the way) make out with Jessica after she knows her friend has turned into a monster?

To hold horror films up to logic is bound to bring disappointment, but even for such a film, Jennifer's Body has plenty of issues. Unwilling to follow any rules, or go the Scream route and satrize the absurdity of horror flicks, Jennifer's Body falls, and so fails, somewhere in the middle. Characters commit actions which only occur because the plot calls for them (such as a contrived break-up whose sole purpose is to separate a couple for slaughter).

Then there's the troubling inconsistencies inherent in Jennifer's transformation (which isn't delved into until the second-half of the movie and so I won't ruin here). Throw in the varying level of intelligence (and even speech patterns) of every single character onscreen, and you've got more than the average amount of groan-worthy moments. You know you're in trouble when the script calls for numerous, supposedly smart characters, to believe that Jennifer (Fox) is a virgin - a misunderstanding which is central to the entire plot of the film.

The Victim
In horror movies there are three archetypal characters: killer/monster, victim, and hero. Now the victim can also be the hero, but in Diablo Cody's script the victim is the monster. But instead of a sympathetic monster like Frankenstein we're given a self-absorbed slut of a killer. See the disconnect? Are we supposed to root for Jennifer, feel sorry for her, or hope for her death? The film asks the audience to do all of these at different moments. It doesn't help that the script consistently yo-yos the character between simply dumb-bitchy victim and Species-like man-eater.

The film is wildly erratic in how it presents its story. At times it's a gorefest. At times it's smart, bordering on satirical. And at times it's nothing more than your typical, dumb monster movie. Sadly, these jagged pieces never fit together. The entire film feels like it's continually in search of its identity.

There are plenty of horror flicks worse than Jennifer's Body, but the film disappoints with how quickly, and easily, it wastes what little it has going for it to begin with. Luckily, the slasher genre allows the film to be dismissed and forgotten quite easily, and Cody and the rest can quickly move on to other projects.

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