Jennifer's Body (2009)

The Blu-ray disc offers a great transfer and some good extras, but even in unrated form, this allegedy horror-comedy is not particularly scary, sexy, or funny.

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Overexposure is a tragic affliction for a young actor – tragic because the films that pay the price are often not the ones responsible for causing the disease. Megan Fox rode two TRANSFORMERS pictures to every magazine cover and television show that could be possibly frequented by men between the age of 14 and 30. Securing her for the lead role in JENNIFER’S BODY must have seemed like a coup, offering the budding sex symbol the first film that she would carry on her own, supported by a script from Diablo Cody, still reasonably hot (well, lukewarm at least) from the massive indy-cred-of JUNO. However, something happened on the way to the forum, and JENNIFER’S BODYdramatically upended upon release, barely limping it’s way to recoup its meager $16 million production budget (here’s hoping DVD sales can pay for all those TV ads). Now, our own lascivious nature should have placed us right in the marketing crosshairs for the film, but we were oddly unmoved by the pre-release hype – finding our Spidey-sense tingling at terms like “feminist” and “empowerment” when what we wanted to hear were words like “scary” and “sexy”. But in the end, it seems that the American movie going public may have been just plain tired of having Ms. Fox shoved down their collected throats, like medicine for an ailment they never had.
High school students and childhood friends Jennifer (Fox) and Anita (Amanda Seyfried) alleviate the boredom of life in Devil’s Kettle with a trip to a local road house to see a hot band, Low Shoulder. A mysterious fire guts the bar just after the band begins their set, killing dozens and sending a near hypnotized Jennifer into the arms – and van – of lead singer Nikolai (a very funny Adam Brody, who should have been in this film a lot more). Anita (who goes more commonly by ‘Needy’) reluctantly returns home alone, only to find Jennifer in her kitchen later that night, covered in blood and vomiting a black, viscous fluid. The next day, Jennifer seems to be her usual bright and perky self in class, until she lures the captain of the football team into the woods, transforms into a demon and eats him. As Anita’s relationship with Jennifer grows more…complicated, she’s drawn closer to her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons) – whom Jennifer seems to be eyeing for her next course. Anita attempts to track down the band – now a major success after the post-fire publicity – and find out what happened to Jennifer that night in the woods.

As the recent (and superb) Daybreakers has reminded us, it’s entirely possible for a horror film to work on numerous levels as long as you don’t lose sight of the genre pool that you’re swimming in. The problem is that Diablo Cody’s script has no teeth for horror, and director Karyn Kusama seems to have little interest in exploring anything aside from Cody’s half-baked female empowerment agenda. The filmmakers are proud to point out the material’s girl power slant (as they do many times in the commentary and supplemental features), but in reality, the end product is no more enlightened than 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre, another weak tea horror tale that tried to sneak by on the basis of having been directed and written by avowed feminists. We enjoyed Kusama’s Girlfight, which had the courage of its convictions; Jennifer’s Body, however, had the gall to sell itself as a sensual horror-comedy without being particularly sexy, scary, or funny.
Looking back on Cody’s Juno, it’s easy to see how the fine ensemble cast and careful direction managed to flesh out the author’s too-clever-by-half dialog. Her scripts seem almost a throwback to those carefree days of the mid-’90s, when every screenwriter was trying to emulate Tarantino’s self-reflexive, hipster style; in Jennifer’s Body, there is almost no organic dialog between characters and every exchange, whether it’s between parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, or even ‘best friends forever’ Jennifer and Anita, feels overwritten and rehearsed (there’s a scene at the funeral of one of Jennifer’s victims in which the mother delivers a graveside haranguing at his assembled goth friends that is absolutely unwatchable).
The good news, however, comes from Amanda Seyfried, who comes closer than anyone else to making the script feel genuine. Her performance is open, honest, and completely winning. Frankly, we found her more attractive than her top-billed co-star; it’s another of the film’s logical leaps that we’re supposed to buy Seyfried as frump, clinging to Jennifer for popularity and acceptance (so much for empowerment!). There are other good actors here, but most are used in underwritten parts that make them little more than cameos: Amy Sedaris is wasted as Anita’s mom, as is the great J K Simmons as a teacher (sporting a prosthetic arm for no good reason, save a cheap laugh on the reveal).
And what of Megan Fox? She’s certainly not bad – and with a role so carefully tailored to her, failure in that regard wasn’t an option – but neither is she all that memorable. Though the title and publicity material say different, Jennifer’s Body really belongs to Seyfried’s Anita, as the film’s only dramatic content consists of her reaction to her friend’s demonic transformation. Little is required of Ms. Fox other than the sort of vamping that two films with Michael Bay should have her performing in her sleep, so perhaps this isn’t a true test of her abilities – but neither does it leave us panting for Untitled Megan Fox Project 2010.
There’s good news for the AV connoisseur, however, as the image on Fox’s Blu-Ray disc is nearly flawless. Jennifer’s Body is a well shot film, with a vivid, colorful palette that is faithfully reproduced on the disc without noticeable DNR or filtering. The lossless DTS track is unusually strong, and the BD also comes equipped with French, Spanish, and Portuguese Dolby Digital tracks.
The major extra is the inclusion of an unrated cut of the film that runs almost a full 5 minutes longer than the theatrical version, clocking in at just over 107 minutes. Though the unspoken tease of these “unrated” cuts is the chance to see nudity or gore that was considered too strong for an R-rating, the changes often turn out to be more subtle: the unrated Jennifer’s Body actually features quite a few editorial changes, sometimes consisting of extensions lasting just a few seconds.
Also present are 14 minutes of deleted scenes; a featurette on the filming of the finale, “The Dead Pool” (both presented in HD); a gag reel; and video diaries by the cast (in SD). The best extra is a “Life After Film School” piece prepared for the Fox Movie Channel (and therefore in SD) that features a better than usual chat with Cody, while the most insipid is a 1-minute long clip mash-up of Ms. Fox vamping it up, called “Megan Fox” is Hot (in HD). There is also a digital copy.

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