Hollywood Product: Jennifer's Body
Megan Fox's limited range weakens Oscar-winner Diablo Cody's high school horror satire
GENRE: Horrors at high school
THE PITCH: A hot, slightly bitchy high schooler (Megan Fox) turns into a hotter, bitchier, boy-eating cannibal when a satanic ceremony goes wrong. A mousy teen nicknamed “Needy” (Mamma Mia!’s Amanda Seyfried) tries to stop her former BFF in the sophomore script from Diablo Cody, Oscar-winner for Juno.
MONEY SHOTS: Jennifer’s big grin with bloodstained face and teeth when she returns from a fateful date. Jennifer’s nude swim across a lake. The crosscutting between Jennifer’s evil seduction and Needy’s awkward but tender deflowering with her nice-guy boyfriend (Johnny Simmons), which subverts the horror flick cliché that heroes have to be virgins. A lengthy girl-on-girl kiss in extreme close-up. (Hey, I’m not made of stone.)
BEST DIABLO CODY-ISM: “He listens to maggot rock and wears eyeliner. My dick is bigger than his,” Jennifer says of a goth classmate. I wonder if Cody coined the term “manscara.”
WORST DIABLO CODY-ISM: There are so many. Jennifer and Needy greet each other with lines such as, “What’s up, Vagisil?” Needy’s mother (Amy Sedaris) says, “I’m a hard-ass, Ford tough mama bear.” Needy’s boyfriend remarks, “Those jeans are hella low. I can almost see your front butt.”
RAUNCHIEST DIABLO CODY-ISM: “I wonder if he’s circumcised. I always wanted to try sea cucumber,” Jennifer speculates about the Indian exchange student at Devil’s Kettle High School. (Yes, that’s the name.)
BODY COUNT: Nine, although a few happen off-camera, with the shadows indicating the gallons of spraying viscera. Dozens of people die in a rock show fire early in the film, but apart from one burning guy, you don’t see the bodies. At one point, a medical professional spits out a bloody tooth.
FLESH FACTOR: For an R-rated Megan Fox film with the word “body” in the title, the movie’s surprisingly coy about nudity. The only nipples you see belong to the guys.
SOUNDTRACK HIGHLIGHTS: “Through the Trees” by (fictional) rising indie band Low Shoulder becomes a deliberately annoying pop anthem. Screeching Weasel performs a cover of “I Can See Clearly Now.”
FASHION STATEMENTS: Jennifer wears panties and leg-warmers as pajamas. Needy wears fuzzy bunny slippers and an orange jumpsuit when we first see her. A borrowed Evil Dead T-shirt makes a too-obvious movie reference. Needy wears a horrible, candy-colored gown with puffy shoulders to the spring formal.
POLITICAL SUBTEXT? The bar fire leads to elaborate displays of mourning and some pointed Sept. 11 references, such as the principal’s declaration that, “We can’t let that damn fire win!" The dark satire of 9/11 grief doesn’t fit the rest of the film's grindhouse aesthetic, and makes you wonder why Jennifer’s Body opens the week after the anniversary of the World Trade Center collapse.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While most mainstream horror films barely have a single idea, Cody’s script for Jennifer’s Body goes off in too many thematic directions, including high school spoof, female-phobic shlock and feminist empowerment fantasy. A versatile, witty lead actress could have pulled Cody’s ideas together, but Fox’s slammin’ body can’t compensate for her flat delivery and empty eyes.