'Jennifer' is all bark and no bite

Article Published: Oct. 19, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Jennifer' is all bark and no bite

Megan Fox makes a bloody mess in 'Jennifer's Body.'

I'll never forget the first time I saw Juno, a refreshingly smart teen comedy that introduced the world to the mind of writer Diablo Cody. For the film, Cody won an Oscar for her fresh, relatable characters and witty, rapid-fire dialogue, and I knew that she would deliver many more fantastic scripts down the road.

I still believe that, but Jennifer's Body is not one of them. It's a mess from beginning to end, killed by a lack of character and an uncertainty about what it is. Is it a horror? Is it a comedy? I'm not sure that either Cody or director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux) know for sure, and the result is a film that isn't scary or funny.

The film revolves around Jennifer (Megan Fox, Transformers) and her best friend, the nerdy Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfriend, Mamma Mia!), high school students who have been best friends since childhood. Now they're opposites - Jennifer is the "popular girl," while Needy (with the worst name ever) is a bookworm. The two attend a concert at a shady bar and, after some time with the band, Jennifer comes back - different. Well, sort of.

The difference is that she has become some sort of monster that needs to feed, particularly on the unsuspecting high school boys that yearn for her. As a person, however, there really is no change: Jennifer was mean, egocentric and rude before her transformation, and her personality doesn't change a bit afterwards.

Cody's trademark witty dialogue is here, but Jennifer is no Juno MacGuff. The verbal style that flowed smoothly from Juno's mouth - thanks to the exceptional performance of Ellen Page - created a character that was impossible to dislike. With Jennifer, the dialogue just doesn't fit the character - Jennifer isn't as smart or witty as Juno, and the attempt at witty banter feels forced.

Fox does what she can as Jennifer, proving she can handle a leading role, but the script doesn't do her many favors. Seyfried, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic - sweet and charming, but not too "girl next door" - and it's a pity her performance gets wasted as the demands of her to make unrealistic plot twists and extreme character traits seem believable. Seyfried's attempt is valiant, but it's hard to make delicious apple pie with rotten apples.

While the film is not as gore-driven as some horror films, Kusama seems to be operating on the same flawed notion as most modern horror: that gore is scary. It isn't, and all Jennifer's Body has is gore and false positives - it never attacks the audience and contains no frightening surprises. It's another step back for Kusama, who debuted with the wonderful low-budget drama Girlfight before failing at action (miserably) with Aeon Flux. Her take on horror might be worse that her take on action, too, as she gives away too much information that could have been scary.

There's a ton of illogical, even confusing, moments in the film as well: fire spreads insanely fast (even for fire), characters float and there's even a deer that appears to be carnivorous. None of this is ever explained.

Jennifer's Body is probably as bad as Juno was good, which might not be a bad thing in the end for Diablo Cody. If Juno set the bar unreasonably high (many will argue that it did), then Jennifer's Body has sent that bar crashing back to Earth.

Jennifer's Body is rated R for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinemas 7 in Boone.

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