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Movie Review: Jennifer’s Body (R)

A Not-so-Solid Body of Work

Horror flick fails to frighten

By Brian Donohue


Jennifer’s body is spectacular. Not the movie, mind you, but her actual body. As played by Megan Fox, Jennifer is the exotic, unreal beauty that every high school boy in the small town of Devil’s Kettle fantasizes about. She is beautiful and she knows it. When we first meet her, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that she is evil. Well, not actually evil — not yet, anyway. More “high school evil.” She is also a bit of a tease, a trait that gets her into trouble and starts her on the path to becoming literally diabolical.

Jennifer’s BFF is Needy (short for Anita). The two girls have known each other since the sandbox, which explains their otherwise implausible friendship.  As Betty to Jennifer’s Veronica, Needy is well-played by Amanda Seyfried. Jennifer is cruel and patronizing to Needy but Needy remains steadfast. “Sandbox love,” Needy tells us, “never dies.”

That isn’t to say that Needy is not at least starting to question whether or not Jennifer is someone she would choose to be friends with had she met her in high school. Needy’s wavering fidelity  (more than anything that happens to Jennifer one night after hooking up with members of a middling indie-rock band) is what this movie is really about. On the night in question, Jennifer ditches Needy for a chance to take a ride in a van with members of the band Low Shoulder. Something very bad happens to Jennifer at the end of that ride and when she shows up at Needy’s house later that night, we can tell she’s changed. She has gone from Mean Girl to demon, complete with a newfound taste for human blood. Luckily for her, there is a ready and willing supply of boys roaming the high school halls lining up to be her next donor.

Unluckily for her, Needy starts to notice the connection between the suddenly smaller class sizes and Jennifer’s increasingly malevolent behavior. Still, the pull of the sandbox is strong, and Needy cannot or does not want to completely believe her best friend is behind the carnage. That is, until Jennifer goes after Needy’s boyfriend.  That’s when this friendship, built on sand, completely crumbles. There are lines even a BFF cannot cross and now Needy is the one out for blood. Jennifer may be a succubus but Needy is a woman scorned and (well, you know the rest).

It’s an interesting premise on which to build any movie, much less a horror movie aimed at teens.  Many, if not most of u,s have “sandbox” friends — people we have known since before we can remember. For the most part, we still consider them friends even as they drift away from us. We see them occasionally. We “friend” them on Facebook. They are on our Christmas card list. Even if we realize they are someone we would never choose as a friend now, we can’t bring ourselves to totally reject them because it would be like rejecting a part of ourselves. The consequences would be too painful and destructive. Yet that is just what Needy does (with very good reason) to Jennifer.

Unfortunately, screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama were unable to develop this promising premise into a satisfying film. Kusama is unable to find the right balance between horror and comedy; as a result, we get none of the former and precious little of the latter. Cody (an Oscar winner for Juno) is a clever writer — perhaps too clever. Her dialogue at times becomes a steady stream of witty quips, fun in short doses but ultimately tedious. I know of no teensn that talk like that. In Cody’s world, every teen talks like that. In Juno, it seemed fresh and quirky. Here it just seems like showing off. In Juno, she created characters and a story we cared about.  In Jennifer, it seems she was unable to decide what kind of story she wanted to tell. The result is disappointing and uninspired but not a total failure. There is some meat on Jennifer’s Body but it has no soul.

There were at least half a dozen f-bombs dropped plus pervasive use of the other usual suspects and even a few phrases I’ve never heard before. (Megan Fox tells one of the guys he’s giving her a “wettie”). There’s a considerable amount of gore and violence; that said, it isn’t as graphic as a lot of what passes for horror these days. A woman is stabbed during a satanic ritual. Several people are devoured. Mutilated dead bodies are shown.
There are several sexually suggestive scenes, including one extended scene of a couple having consensual, “safe” sex. (Although there’s no nudity.) There is plenty of suggestive dialogue. You see some underage beer/liquor drinking and cigarette smoking.

Brian Donohue is a local actor and director whose work has been seen on stages throughout the area. He also produced and directed the documentary film Every Day Stronger about the 2002 La Plata tornado. A contractor for the US Navy by day, Brian lives in Charles County with his wife and four children.

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