Welcome to “Another Movie Guy?”! The job of a film critic can sometimes be tedious, particularly since writing a review of a mediocre movie is not too rewarding . The most fun is when you feel strongly about something – whether it’s a movie you love (Julia, Inglourious Basterds) or a movie you hate (Synecdoche, New York). I had an inkling I would not love Jennifer’s Body, so I secretly hoped for a strong negative reaction. I wasn’t disappointed.
Jennifer’s Body is a horror-comedy that’s neither horrifying nor funny. The talented Diablo Cody does not live up to the high school horror that clearly inspired her. Like her earlier Academy Award-winning screenplay, Cody peppers her dialogue with winking-hipness and abstract references. While character development and solid performances anchor Juno, Jennifer’s Body features mediocre acting and broad caricatures. Jokes fall flat, and frequent blood splatter becomes tiresome. Even die-hard Megan Fox fans should avoid this stinker – they’ll find more amusement in an issue of Maxim.
The first act is all-too familiar. Jennifer (Megan Fox) is the bitchy hot girl, and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is her plain best friend. They share a bond of insecurity, much to the disappointment of Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons). Popularity bores Jennifer, so when upcoming band Low Shoulder comes to town, she jumps at the opportunity to fuck the singer (Adam Brody). At the show, strange events are afoot. The venue burns down, killing locals, and Jennifer wanders into Low Shoulder’s van (ok, that part isn’t strange). Needy heads home and later finds a blood-soaked Jennifer puking up bile. Her worrisome behavior doesn’t stop there. As townsfolk grieve over the fire, Jennifer oscillates between euphoria and desperation. Of course, there’s a connection between Jennifer’s euphoria and the grisly murders of assorted high-school stereotypes. Jennifer and Needy remain BFFs – the former eventually confides a dark secret to the latter. Oh, and Jennifer conveniently omits the part about Chip being her next target.
Horror-comedy is a difficult subgenre to pull off successfully. Punchlines undermine thrills, which is exactly what happens with Jennifer’s Body. Needy wanders through her unlit home and Jennifer eviscerates boys, and these sequences never generate suspense. Director Karyn Kusama probably could achieve serious scares, but is more intent on plodding the story along. The gory scenes are halfhearted, so there’s no need for comedy to undercut tension. Some sequences are downright awkward. Kusama juxtaposes Needy’s big sex scene with Jennifer’s big murder scene, with little to say about their supposed connection. As the de-facto villain, Adam Brody tries his hand at macabre whimsy, but lacks the chops for such a delivery. Still, he’s nowhere near as awful as Megan Fox, who lacks any acting prowess. At one point, a character marvels at a change in Jennifer’s eyes. It’s clearly a special effect, as Fox is incapable of expressing emotion. It’s no surprise her character’s lifelong friendship feels inauthentic. Seyfried is a talented actress – unfortunately, the screenplay requires little more than the occasional scream. When the big showdown finally arrives, it culminates with cumbersomely vulgar dialogue more horrifying than any on-screen viscera.
With Jennifer’s Body, Cody attempts to lampoon the bizarre morality of 80s-era slasher flicks (under no circumstances could anyone take “Don’t trust indie bands. They may worship Satan” seriously). Amidst Cody’s barbs, there is a severe absence of compelling material. Don’t bother with this tepid nonsense – it fails to function even as eye candy. Earlier this year I reviewed The Girlfriend Experience, in which porn star Sasha Grey convincingly portrayed a melancholy call-girl. Given the respective talent of Grey and Fox, perhaps these stunning actresses should switch professions.