Babe from the Grave
All eyes are on Jennifer's Body -- and not just because of its title torso. In an industry where you're only as popular as your latest project, this movie could be considered a dealbreaker for the fledgling career of writer Diablo Cody. Around this time a couple of years back, her script for Juno made Cody a Hollywood golden girl, which she's wisely decided to follow with a commercial genre flick instead of more Oscar bait. I admire her desire to revel in some good old exploitation cinema, but while Jennifer's Body comes with loads of moxie, it fails to summon enough finesse to smooth out the occasional bump in the road.
In this tale of hormones gone haywire, Megan Fox plays Jennifer Check, de facto roost ruler at a small Minnesota high school. She's the queen of the cliques, the knockout all the girls want to be and all the guys want to be with. Always flanking her is Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried), a gawky lass whose role is to make Jennifer look even better. After her BFF gets spirited away by a shifty indie band, Needy notices that Jennifer has taken a turn for the peculiar upon her return. Not only is she even more promiscuous than usual, but the boys she chats up have a knack for turning up later ripped to shreds. It seems a demonic presence has taken over poor Jennifer, transforming her into a ravenous beast bent on sating her hunger, one love-struck suitor at a time.
As much as I love a good fright, I tend to go for horror movies of a more comedic bent. Since the genre is so mired in the lurid and grotesque to begin with, it helps to be a bit self-aware while simply allowing viewers to have a blast. Jennifer's Body sets out with this philosophy in mind, though there's as much business as pleasure going on. If you can imagine Heathers with Linda Blair in the lead, Jennifer's Body comes across a bit like that. It's a schoolhouse satire crossed with the supernatural. In fact, horror fans may also find quite a few things in common with Canada's creature feature Ginger Snaps. Though a demon is at work rather than a werewolf, the idea of a young lady exploiting her growing maturity at the cost of her soul remains the same. These moments are done so well you almost wish Jennifer's Body had taken the serious route, and when inciting giggles shows up on its to-do list, one can't help thinking this isn't the reaction the filmmakers were banking on.
The catch-22 with Jennifer's Body nvolves its filmmakers failing to combine horror and comedy successfully. There are a few amusingly strange vignettes, as when a group of Satanists burst out into song during a sacrifice. For the most part, however, scenes tend to play out in a rather dark fashion, with a Junoesque one-liner randomly tossed in. The effect is uneven and executed nowhere near as well as in the likes of Slither or the Evil Dead saga.
While most cast members do a good job here, a few feel unsure of how to handle being in on the joke. Fox has the least complicated role: tear some throats out and look smashing doing it. However, playing a vapid vixen is as much of a stretch for her as 50 Cent portraying a rapper. Seyfried's turn has more effort, but it feels like it's from another movie. Some of the dark gags appear lost on her, unlike J.K. Simmons and Adam Brody, who tap directly into the gallows humor as a one-handed teacher and a would-be devil worshipper, respectively.
Jennifer's Body is an ambitious film, but its juggling of two genres isn't up to par. There's a lot of talent behind this movie, which makes it all the more disappointing when it falls prey to sluggish pacing and fails to do a better blending of zingers and bloodshed.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation and rated "R" for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use.)