10/12/09

Review: Jennifer's Body (2009)


Jennifer's Body is a pretty delightful snarky high-school horror movie from the writer of Juno, the Oscar-winning Diablo Cody. The good news is, this is a much better script. I know I might be opening myself up to potshots from Juno fans, and it's not a terrible movie, but what's terrible about it is that the dialogue is much too perfect, in the now-familiar Diablo Cody way, with some mixed good and bad wordplay often getting in the way of the characters and story.

Jennifer's Body corrects this weakness well. It's not a heartwarming story like Juno, so it has a bit more room for error, but it doesn't abuse this. Instead, the dialogue feels much more natural and authentic for high-schoolers (even with the fantasy elements), and doesn't distract at all.

The film tells the story of two best friends, Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried) and Jennifer Check (Megan Fox), whose outing to see an indie band perform at the local hangout turns into a firestorm, with Jennifer hijacked by the band while in shock from the inferno which ensues, with strange consequences for their relationship, and Jennifer's body.

It's no spoiler to say that Jennifer is transformed into a vampire/wraith/ghoul/succubus who becomes a threat to the male population of their town, Devil's Kettle (so named because a local landmark waterfall ends in a whirlpool which swallows things). This is a neat metaphor for Jennifer's appeal to boys in general, and it plays out and pays off metaphorically as well.

At first, Needy does not know what to think of the metaphysical goings-on with Jennifer after that night, but she soon figures out that Jennifer has turned totally evil, despite her continuing appeal and knowledge of their past as best friends. Once she's sure Jennifer's become possessed, she resolves to fight, but by that time she's a bit too late to make a real difference.

There's a Tim Burton/Sam Raimi feel to the film, in a good way, with supernatural elements blending with the high school setting in a satisfying way. Some of the EC Comics feel of Raimi's recent Drag Me to Hell is present, but Jennifer's Body is much more well-integrated overall. Some of the effects are a bit cheesy, but not as cheesy as the cheesiest ones in Drag Me to Hell.

There's a pretty strong soundtrack, too, and an especially wonderful indie song by Ryan Levine which plays throughout the film, changing its meaning several times as the story develops, and quite effectively, I thought.

And despite the Transformers movies, it seems Megan Fox can really act. Granted, she's still playing the impossibly hot chick, for which she's uniquely qualified, but she does a great job hitting all the right emotions as she goes from gorgeous cheerleader to ravening monster. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as well, as the main character and the heart of the film, and Johnny Simmons as her boyfriend Chip is very good, too. There are amusing supporting turns for J.K. Simmons (apparently no relation to Johnny) as a teacher, Adam Brody ("The O.C.") as the band leader and Amy Sedaris as Needy's mother.

I found Jennifer's Body to be imaginative, clever, never over-clever, entertaining and lots of fun. It might pull a few punches, but it makes up for it by not pulling most of the important ones. And it's cool to see Diablo Cody hit one out of the park.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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