Jennifer’s Body (2009)

(In theatres, September 2009) Juno, Mamma Mia! and the Transformers have little in common except for how they set up expectations (and reactions) to this hum-drum horror/comedy movie in which a high-school sexpot is transformed in a man-eating succubus.  Would screenwriter Diablo Cody resurrect a tired genre with her lively dialogue?  Would Amanda Seyfried look less like a froggy muppet?  Would Megan Fox know what to do without giant robots around?  But while Jennifer’s Body is more interesting than most of the other teen horror movies out there, it’s practically the definition of a sophomore slump: Unsatisfying, disjointed and “off” in ways that are hard to pin down precisely. (Although if you want an idea of why the dialogue doesn’t always work, wait for the “Wikipedia” line.)  While the script shows moments of cleverness, genre-twisting and killer quips in answering the age-old question “what if the virgin sacrifice wasn’t a virgin?”, the plot as a whole seems to advance in unnatural fashion as determined by the screenwriter: Motivations are suspect, clichés abound, scenes don’t make much sense and even the self-conscious dialogue heightens the artificiality of the story.  Worst of all, Jennifer’s Body seems curiously unambitious in what it’s trying to do: the comedy falls flat, the horror is banal, the metaphors are weak and more than a few scenes seem to go through the expected beats.  At least some of the actors do well: well-cast Fox gets a bit more to do here than in Transformers, while Seyfried shows signs of being able to outgrow her current round-faced cuteness.  Overall, though, Jennifer’s Body is a letdown considering the anticipation surrounding its release, and a generally lacklustre film even taken solely on its own.  While its surface qualities are interesting (it’s a rare high-profile horror film written and directed by women, acknowledging teenage sexuality, and featuring two actresses with only secondary roles for the actors), it’s far less subversive than you may expect or hope for.

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