With all the success of Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody’s Juno (Special Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray], one might expect Cody’s next penned release to be that of her ingenue Ellen Page‘s next movie, Whip It; I mean, just looking at the trailer for the movie screams out Cody’s style (the movie is actually based on the book by Shauna Cross). However, Cody decided to go in a completely different direction with a completely unexpected genre: horror. It’s a bold move for Cody but a smart one seeing how most would pigeonhole her into a genre if she kept writing the "Juno"-style films then did a 180. Unfortunately, though, as much as I wanted to like this film, I just couldn’t fully get into it. And it wasn’t the old school theater I saw it in with its malfunctioning projector or one set of operational speakers or the bitter cold A/C or the chirping crickets that added their own dialogue throughout the film. No. It was none of those things that made me feel the way I did about "Jennifer’s Body" (taken from the Hole tune off their album Live Through This).
I get the entire metaphor here for how evil high school girls can be and transforming that meanness into a horror flick. And, believe me, I love women as the villain (I’m a big fan of Glory, evil Willow and Faith from one of the best TV shows ever created; and if you need me to tell you, then stop reading this review right now. Seriously. Stop.), but there was something that just didn’t seem to click here. The dialogue that worked so cutely into "Juno," well, here it doesn’t work ... at all. Every time one of the actors spit out Cody’s attempt to capture teen speak, I rolled my eyes and threw up in my mouth a little. Now, it did work in "Juno." I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the setting of the film, maybe it’s the genre, or maybe it’s the actors. Regardless, it just didn’t work here. I felt like Regina George from the movie that perfectly—and greatly—captures the metaphor of teen girl meanness/evil, Mean Girls [Blu-ray], wanting to shout: "Diablo, stop trying to make (insert lame teen slang word here) happen! It’s not going to happen!" The one who was able to pull off every scene he was in was Adam Brody ("The O.C."). He has impeccable comedic timing and great screen presence no matter what he does, but he wasn’t used that much in here. Maybe that’s a good thing. Sadly, three great actors who definitely should’ve been used more, but weren’t are Chris Pratt ("Everwood," "Wanted"), Cynthia Stevenson ("Home for the Holidays," "Dead Like Me"), and Amy Sedaris ("Strangers With Candy," "Sex and the City"). All great actors but poorly underused in this movie.
Director Karyn Kusama‘s ("Girlfight," "Aeon Flux") photography style strongly shows hints of John Carpenter‘s Halloween [Blu-ray] mixed with Dario Argento‘s Suspiria (2-Disc Special Edition), Carpenter’s classic suspense POV with the gore of Argento’s gore is prevalent throughout, and while that may satisfy or wow some filmgoers, it didn’t do much to impress this one. Fox herself has said many times in interviews that her acting chops haven’t fully been put to the test yet in the roles she’s received, and, sadly, this role is no different. Amanda Seyfried ("Mamma Mia!", "Mean Girls") does a great job as protagonist Needy, at times channeling Jamie Lee Curtis` Laurie Strode, making it easy for the audience to root for her. But despite the likeable character and the gore, there was something sorely missing from "Jennifer’s Body."
Or maybe there were some things that could’ve been taken out. Like the gratuitous making-out kissing scene. Now, I just got a bunch of boo’s and hisses from a majority of guys out there. But let me explain. While I definitely understand why Cody put the long kiss in the script, I simply can’t grasp the length of the scene, along with the unnecessary close-up. I can’t help but imagine a table of studio execs watching the scene and getting a hard-on for the scene, thinking, "YEAH! We’ll get a million just from this scene alone!!!!" Well, I thought the scene was a waste of time and if Fox thinks she’s going to stretch her acting muscles with roles like this, she’s sorely mistaken. However, I don’t think that’s Fox’s fault. I think most of the only roles offered to her are of the "sexy young girl"-type. She and her agent need to broaden her horizons—take a few indie roles—and, hopefully, she’ll find a role with the substance that she knows she has.
I will say that the soundtrack rocked (Jennifer’s Body) and Cody’s overall plot adhered to the usual horror movies with which our generation (70s and 80s) grew up. It’s got the flash, fun and edge of a contemporary horror flick, but it doesn’t match up to any of the classics. It’s not cool enough to be Scream (Dimension Collector’s Series), but it’s also not serious enough to be "Halloween." I have to `fess up that horror movies haven’t really scared me; I think the last "scary movie" that actually made me tense up was Aliens (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition) when I was 12. Nevertheless, there still have been horror movies that—scary or not—still are impressionable enough to get high marks.
While this film certainly wasn’t great, it was entertaining. The ending was predictable and something to be desired, even though it was interesting to see it play out. But if you’re a horror fan, it’s definitely worth a rental at best ... since there’s nothing special about seeing it in the theater. I can only hope that Cody’s next venture will be into another genre with less teen-speak and a little more concentration on plot and acting.
About Jennifer's Body (2009)
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Ed Anders, J.K. Simmons, Adrian Hough, Barbara Harris, Carrie Genzel, Gabrielle Rose, Kyle Gallner, Marilyn Norry, Andreana Weiner, Dan Joffre, Emily Tennant, Megan Charpentier, David Michie, David Randolph, Valerie Tian, Michael Bean, Megan Fox, Chris Pratt, Bill Fagerbakke, Juan Riedinger, Jeremy Maxwell, Adam Brody, Vicki Davis, Amanda Seyfried, Cynthia Stevenson, Eve Harlow, Josh Emerson, Roger Craig Smith, Aaron Fors
Director: Karyn Kusama
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