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‘Jennifer’s Body’ hosts plenty of laughs, few horrors

(Photo courtesy MCT)

(Photo courtesy MCT)

Let’s get something straight: Diablo Cody is a comedy writer. Best known for her Oscar-winning script for “Juno,” its evident that Cody is sharp, witty and up on her culture. “Jennifer’s Body,” released in theaters on September 18, does not succeed as a horror movie. However, it passes every test with flying colors in the comedy department.

You can’t really blame it on the actors either. The title character, Jennifer Check, is played by Megan Fox, who despite all evidence to the contrary, can actually act. (You’d never know from the “Transformers” movies. Director Michael Bay’s leering long shots of Fox draped over motorcycles make one feel like they’ve accidentally intruded on a peep show.)

“Big Love” actress Amanda Seyfried gives off a plucky presence as Jennifer’s best friend, Anita “Needy” Lesnicky. Both actresses fit their roles perfectly, with Fox doing an impeccable job filling Diablo Cody’s vision of a crazy, flesh-eating high school girl. Seyfried fills the role of said girl’s less-attractive, dorky best friend with aplomb. Even Chip (Johnny Simmons), Needy’s slightly nebbish-looking boyfriend, is an example of perfect casting.

The reasons why “Jennifer’s Body” doesn’t exactly excel in the genre is a result of the way the movie was put together. The plot is simple: indie-rock band sacrifices beautiful girl to the devil in order to gain a record contract. But their plans go alarmingly awry when Jennifer, who isn’t a virgin as the ritual requires – becomes the host of a demon, who requires human flesh to survive. Needy, the unlikely hero, has to stop Jennifer to save the lives of the people in their small town.

Since the plot is so simple, it seems obvious that Cody had to figure out a way for the movie to not be overbearing but to also not leave the audience wanting more. This, it seems, was a difficult task for the celebrated screenwriter.

As mentioned, the writing is pristine. Very few writers can come close to the sarcasm that Cody executes effortlessly. Each joke is so obvious that you’d think you could write it yourself, and therein lies her talent. Yet Cody inserts the jokes silently into the scene, so as to not take away from the plot developments.

After becoming possessed by a demon, Jennifer discovers that regular food no longer works for her. We know this because at the beginning of the movie, Jennifer is shown throwing up black bile after trying to eat chicken.

The weird question that’s raised as the movie goes on is thus: how does the demon inhabit Jennifer’s body without completely controlling her? Jennifer is still the same conceited man-eating girl she always was. The punch line is, this time she’s actually devouring her conquests whole. It’s shown that her moods change according to if she needs to feed or not, but she is still the same person. More loose strings continue to plague the script, such as the question of why the townspeople seem so completely ignorant to what’s happening, even as the body count continues to pile up.

Typically in a host scenario, the host is completely enveloped by its parasite. It seems odd that Cody would opt to have Jennifer’s charm still emit from a demon, but maybe that was her intent. If the demon didn’t say funny things before she kissed and ate boys, maybe it wouldn’t have worked. (Key line: “Nice hardware, Ace.”)

Another disappointing aspect of “Jennifer’s Body” is its awkward scenes, of which there is no shortage. When Jennifer first becomes a demon, she goes directly to Needy’s house. Looking like she just got hit by a car, she sneaks into Needy’s house and proceeds to smile awkwardly for about 30 seconds without saying anything, exposing a set of truly disgusting prosthetic teeth.

“Jennifer’s Body” could’ve also done without the immensely awkward sex scene between Needy and Chip; perhaps still smarting from the absence of such an awkward scene in “Juno” between Michael Cera and Ellen Page, Cody felt the need to unnecessarily insert one here. Though it was filtered with a scene of Jennifer devouring a boy, it was still unbearable to watch. The plot wouldn’t have suffered if the audience just saw Jennifer in the process of chowing down on the boy. After the awkward sex scene, Jennifer is then shown drinking the blood of her latest victim where his stomach used to be. It’s evident why it was placed there – to show exactly how Jennifer feeds – but again: AWKWARD. She cups her hands as if drinking out of her kitchen sink and repeats the process a few too many times, the effect never ceasing to repulse. The award for the most embarrassing, awkwardly-written and unnecessary scene goes to the (superfluous) lesbian kiss between Jennifer and Needy. Utterly overwritten and over-publicized, the kiss is about a minute long and ends abruptly, without explanation.

Megan Fox is probably what’s going to get the movie to earn back its budget. She’s a sex symbol, and teenage boys (well, all boys for that matter) seem to love her. Fox completely emulates something that is at once so beautiful, yet so evil. However, it must be said that Amanda Seyfried is the actress worth watching. Her performance (marked mostly by screaming and crying) was the most believable out of everyone, even Fox. Seyfried really was given a moment to shine in “Jennifer’s Body.” If anything, this was her movie.

“Jennifer’s Body” has that certain edginess and quality that makes up for it not really being that scary. If it were marketed more as a dark comedy, instead of in the same manner as 2007s “Disturbia” (which starred Fox’s “Transformer’s co-star Shia LaBoeuf), it would’ve been more successful. According to www.boxofficemojo.com, the movie made $6.8 million this past weekend, and was set at a budget of $16 million. Let’s repeat: not a horror, but a comedy. People probably don’t need to be running to the theater for this one, but it’s not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 Haley Navarro can be reached at hnavarro@student.umass.edu

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