Diablo Cody announced herself as one of Hollywood’s smartest, sassiest new voices with her Oscar-winning script for Juno, but horror comedy Jennifer’s Body, her follow-up to that dazzling debut, fails to strike the same sparks.
The new film again has a teenage girl as its protagonist, yet where Ellen Page’s Juno was sarky but sweet, Megan Fox’s bitchy teen queen Jennifer is nasty to the core – and that’s before she’s transformed into a voracious man-eating demon…
Fox’s hot-bodied Jennifer and Amanda Seyfried’s mousy Needy (real name Anita Lesnicki) are best friends, still bound together by childhood intimacy despite their differences. It’s not a very healthy relationship for the bullied Needy, but it gets positively dangerous after Jennifer encounters indie rockers Low Shoulder, a band so desperate for success they’d kill for a hit record.
Unfortunately, Jennifer has fibbed about being a virgin. So when the band attempts to sacrifice her in a satanic ritual, things don’t exactly work out as planned. Jennifer survives, but when she turns up at Needy’s house later that night, it’s clear that she’s been transformed into something demonic.
Now ‘actually evil, not high-school evil’, Jennifer has turned into a bloodthirsty succubus with an insatiable hunger for boys – literally so. She seduces, kills and devours her male prey, chomping her way through a personal menu of the school’s social sets (jocks, nerds, Goths and so on). Can Needy put a stop to Jennifer before her own boyfriend, easygoing Chip, gets it in the neck?
Like an attention-seeking teenager, Jennifer’s Body desperately wants to be cool. But the strain shows, which is decidedly uncool. Cody sprinkles her screenplay with her trademark slang – attractive boys are ‘salty’, breasts are ‘smart bombs’ and being ‘lime-green jello’ means you’re jealous – but what seemed fresh and clever in Juno appears self-conscious here. Even more contrived – and attention seeking – is Fox and Seyfried’s much-hyped kiss, teasing and titillating though it undoubtedly is. (Admittedly, Cody and director Karyn Kusama do take pains to give the girls’ friendship a sexual frisson beyond this scene.)
The pair’s smooch will clearly be a turn on for lots of punters, but when you get beyond the lesbian liplock, it’s hard to see whom Jennifer’s Body will satisfy. Too dark for a sizeable portion of the audience charmed by Juno, it’s not grisly or scary enough to satisfy the gore-hounds.
Don’t blame Fox and Seyfried, though. Fox is both spectacularly sexy and scary as hell (even before she starts spewing black bile) and Seyfried more than holds her own as the movie’s true heroine. But if you want films that really nail teenage bitchiness and the horror of high school, go watch Heathers or Mean Girls instead.
On general release from 4th November.
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