Thu, Sep 17, 2009 (midnight)
Maybe it’s a little early to call Diablo Cody a one-trick pony, but, well, she’s a one-trick pony. The screenwriter of Juno hit on something fresh and funny her first time out, and director Jason Reitman worked his considerable magic on it, turning a screenplay full of quirky, overwritten dialogue into a film bursting with genuine human emotion. Cody’s second produced screenplay, the horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body, seems to have never met a genuine human emotion, and its mannered dialogue mostly dies in the hands of director Karyn Kusama and the game but overmatched young stars.
Amanda Seyfried and Transformers hottie Megan Fox do their best with Cody’s story of a popular cheerleader (Fox) who, thanks to a botched Satanic ritual, ends up a demon hungry for the flesh of teenage boys. Seyfried’s nerdy Needy, best friend to Fox’s Jennifer, at first tries to help her friend, and then eventually comes to the conclusion, after Jennifer targets Needy’s nice-guy boyfriend for devouring, that Jennifer needs to be stopped. Fox uses her Maxim-endorsed looks to their fullest, making Jennifer alluring even as she’s dripping blood from her jaws, and Seyfried, an appealing, underrated performer, comes close to the same kind of realism that Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby brought to the best friends in Juno.
But this is not Juno of the Dead: Cody’s labored quips fall flat coming from these actors and in this context, and her script is maddeningly short on suspense or excitement. Kusama does nothing to improve the lax pacing; as a horror movie, Jennifer’s Body isn’t remotely scary, and even the gore is deployed sparingly—as are shots of nubile young flesh (there’s no nudity, although there is a gratuitous, lascivious close-up of Fox and Seyfried making out). Loads of movies have done a much better job of utilizing horror as a metaphor for the pains of teen-girl life (see: The Craft, Ginger Snaps, Teeth, etc.), and Cody traffics extensively in clumsy metaphors (Exhibit A: Needy, who is needy, and is also named Needy). The movie is so busy trying to invent a hip new lingo and show off its cleverness that it never manages to tap into the visceral rush that defines both horror movies and high school.