‘Juno’ writer has nothing new to say in ‘Jennifer’s Body’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Sunday, September 20, 2009 9:17am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The phrase “Oscar-winning screenwriter” generally imparts a certain dignity to a person or at least a sense of professional accomplishment.

Such dignity was probably never going to happen with onetime stripper and self-styled bad girl Diablo Cody, who picked up the gold statuette for that piece of brittle wisecracking known as “Juno.” But it’s even less likely now.

Cody’s second credit as screenwriter is “Jennifer’s Body,” which brings her slang-laden style to the teen horror genre. The movie detonates many nasty jokes in service of a standard story.

“Hell is a teenage girl,” runs the opening voiceover line, which sets the tone for Cody’s tale of hormones run amok. The narration comes from good-girl Needy (Amanda Seyfried, from “Mamma Mia!”), who is going to explain how she came to be incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital.

It all comes down to her old friend Jennifer (Megan Fox), a girl gone really, really wild. After a night spent with the members of a sinister boy band, Jennifer appears at Needy’s house as a blood-soaked apparition with strange cravings.

Other symptoms of vampirism surface, including the fact that if Jennifer doesn’t feast on a boy periodically, she grows tired and pale. Even her fabulous hair looks less fabulous.

Nothing gets in the way of the one-liners, of course, which are designed to make the audience laugh and gasp at the same time. No doubt about it, Cody knows something about the way jerks and losers talk, and she pounces on them gleefully.

Director Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”) can’t quite balance the “Heathers”-like comedy of Cody’s quips with the gory horror nor with the fact that every once in a while we’re supposed to take something seriously.

Maybe nobody could balance that except Stanley Kubrick, and he isn’t around.

The gallery of grotesques includes Adam Brody as a slimy rock singer, J.K. Simmons as a pathetically square teacher and Amy Sedaris as Needy’s mother. Everybody’s equally caricatured.

Megan Fox, a reigning cultural hottie who always looks as though she was created by a computer program, is adept casting. Jennifer is the quintessence of the devouring high-school princess — it’s just a literal devouring, in this case.

Cody approaches the practice of using horror as a metaphor for teen angst as though thinking of it for the first time, although many films got here first. More annoyingly, “Jennifer’s Body” doesn’t have much to say on the subject. It just wants you to laugh through the gore.

“Jennifer’s Body” ½

“Juno” Oscar-winner Diablo Cody writes this wisecracking horror flick about a high-school princess (Megan Fox) who literally devours her classmates. Nothing too new about this, except Cody’s laborious slangy one-liners, which are supposed to make us laugh through the bloodshed. Co-starring Amanda Seyfried.

Rated: R for violence, language, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

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