Thursday, September 17, 2009

A pointless blend of satire and gore

Megan Fox flies into a rage in Jennifer's Body.

If it were up to me -- and many will be glad that it's not -- Jennifer's Body would be tossed into a bin where Hollywood keeps the rest of its big-screen junk, things such as satirical teen comedy, gory horror and teasing sex.

Jennifer's Body probably would vanish with little fanfare if it weren't for its pedigree. It was written by Diablo Cody, a screenwriter whose debut movie, Juno, promised to bring a new sensibility to the movie conversation, one that was smart, pop-culturally savvy and funny. Cody, who was discovered as a blogger and who once worked as a stripper, seemed ready to bolster big-screen entertainment with her sharply expressed wit.

Ten minutes into Jennifer's Body -- Cody's second big-screen effort -- and I could feel hope being dashed on the rocks of disappointment. Although the movie gives hottie Megan Fox plenty of screen time, it's ultimately a lumbering attempt to put a comic twist on shocking horror.

Maybe the whole enterprise was doomed from the start. Hip as she can be, Cody seems to have forgotten that half of the teen horror movies that hit the nation's multiplexes already come across as genre parodies. And Cody's dialogue isn't nearly as amusing as it was in Juno.

Directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight), Jennifer's Body centers on a teen-age girl with the improbable name of Needy, Amanda Seyfried of HBO's Big Love. Needy is best friends with Jennifer (Fox). She also has a boyfriend (Johnny Simmons). These high schoolers seem to be doing reasonably well until the night Needy and Jennifer find themselves partying at a local bar and a lethal fire breaks out.

Needy and Jennifer, of course, survive, but a bit of satanic foul play -- no, it's not worth describing -- turns the archly seductive Jennifer into a demon. She starts devouring the flesh of teen-age boys, ripping large pieces out of their torsos. Oh well, at least she's not pigging out on burgers and fries.

Kusama's bite-and-bleed approach should give you a clue about the way she throws raw meat on the movie's gory fires. But offenses to taste are the least of the movie's problems: Jennifer's Body goes nowhere and seems to have no reason for existing other than to play around with horror-movie cliches. That's a pretty low bar, and the movie can't jump over it, even as it dabbles in lesbian attraction, projectile vomiting and occult mumbo jumbo. (I know: Many will rank those among the movie's good points.)

If you want to see a truly twisted comedy, try World's Greatest Dad, which opened in Denver last week and which actually feels like something we haven't seen before. Jennifer's Body -- thanks in part to Fox's nubile body -- probably will do more business than Greatest Dad, but Cody should know that Bobcat Goldhwait, who wrote and directed Greatest Dad, has outdone her. And no one ever hailed Goldthwait as the next big thing.

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