by David A. Holcombe
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As the knife pierces Jennifer’s skin, she screams out in pain, “My tit!”
“No, your heart,” corrects Needy.
Sure, the above quote (from Jennifer’s Body) sounds contrived, but not if you’ve sat through the rest of this movie and watched the plot dance and dodge around all sorts of horror cliches while at the same time embracing its own flimsy premise. You will understand that it is just another attempt to jam dark humor, sex appeal, gore and heartfelt tenderness all into one moment. This is something that Jennifer’s Body really excels at doing.
Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox star as Needy and Jennifer, respectively. The film opens with a scene from later in the film that apparently serves only to confuse our sense of the two lead characters (i.e. Which is the stalker boy eater?). When finally allowed a glimpse into the everyday workings of their relationship, it is baffling that a hardbody like Jennifer would befriend the homely Needy. Nevertheless, they are inseparable in a way that only works in a high school setting. That is, Jennifer seems to keep Needy around to stroke her ego and tell her how her cleavage is totally working in this shirt or her ass looks great in those jeans.
After effortlessly gaining access to the towns only bar, Jennifer instantly goes so gaga over the lead singer that she falls into an inexplicable, yet sober, trance. After Satan starts a fire in the bar as a ruse to end the show early, the band convinces the dazed Jennifer to get into their van. Needy tries to object only to be mocked into submission by her sassy sexpot friend. From here its your typical virgin sacrifice gone awry and - Oops! - we just created some kind of medieval demon spawn of Satan.
Now that Jennifer has a taste for man flesh, she begins “hunting.” For some reason she feels the need to first seduce each victim, playing with their obvious attraction to her rather than just shoveling down handfuls of pimply teen meat. Apart from Jennifer’s physical need to feed, and her recklessness in victim vetting, she has a new problem: Needy is beginning to suspect something.
What do you do when your best friend since like, forever, turns into a savage beast? Can you say, “donde esta la biblioteca?” Yes, there is even a requisite research scene replete with dusty volumes on witchcraft, yellowed pictures of ancient demons and directions for thwarting your own evil spirit problem. Armed with knowledge, Needy sets off on a mission to save her boyfriend, and the rest of the male population from Jennifer’s bottomless greed.
The film was entertaining and never boring. The problem eventually becomes that the film never settles into its niche. As it tries to be all things to everyone, it lacks a consistency of approach. The beginning of the film oscillated between trying to avoid horror film cliches at all costs, and exploiting them. This split focus often resulted in much of the film’s tense or emotional moments seeming contrived. The moment the film makes a clever statement about the teen horror drama, it feels the need to immediately recant. If not for the near constant apologizing, the film would be clever in the vein of the campy Drag me to Hell film.
Diablo Cody is adept at writing characters that use a sort of techno-slang teen-speak. The problem is, however, that not all of these characters are teens. We encounter adults uttering the same blog-glorious phrases. In some cases these adults are genuinely trying to relate to the kids they are imitating, at other times it seems their dialog was pulled from some angry teenage girl’s diary. Fox and Seyfried were both adequate in their roles. Fox actually had the harder of the two, and handled it well. She was able to mock her public image while kicking some serious ass at the same time.
With some unexpected and highly enjoyable cameos (look for Amy Sedaris and J.K. Simmons) Jennifer’s Body is a mixed bag with something for everyone, but not enough for anyone.
David A. Holcombe s a dedicated actor, fierce existentialist, intrepid traveler and a veritable homo universalis. He is currently using Chicago as a base of operations.
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