Speak of the devil 

Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body (R)

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown

Now I get what so many were complaining about last year with Juno, how screenwriter Diablo Cody's dialogue was distractingly self-conscious and desperate to sound hip. It didn't bother me with that film because the characters felt real — the way they talked heightened the reality and underscored the awkwardness of being a pregnant high schooler.

Theoretically, the same could be said about the awkwardness of being a high school girl possessed by a demon: that it could use a thematic assist from lines such as, "You need a mani, bad. You should find a Chinese chick to buff your situation." But when it gets around to having a sweet high school boy describe his girlfriend to his girlfriend as "this girl I made love to for four minutes last night," well, something smells bad.

It's as if everyone in Jennifer's Body knows that they're a character in the new movie written by Cody, and so those characters had damn well better say something clever every few minutes.

The possession of Jennifer (Megan Fox) by a demon is the film's starting point for metaphor and satire, not the ending of it ... except to Cody and director Karyn Kusama, who has yet to show us she can make another film like her startling debut, Girlfight. Perhaps if no one noticed a difference between Jennifer pre-demon and Jennifer possessed, that might have helped make the point we're supposed to believe the movie wants to make. But pre-possession Jennifer is actually a pretty nice, hot, popular cheerleader.

So where's the satire when an ordinary girl becomes possessed by a demon and then goes on a rampage killing people who never did her any harm? Demon Jennifer bullying assorted boys in the most violent ways possible is meant to be amusing, or pointed, or something?

Cody has been saying all sorts of things to anyone who will listen about how Jennifer's Body is supposed to be some sort of allegory about adolescent girls, from their bitchiness to their best friends to their disordered eating. But all that's here are a few placeholders, points at which some allegory could have been inserted in the story.

If Juno had real heart and real people doing their best to cope with difficult circumstances while trying to keep a sense of humor, Jennifer's Body has a fervent desire that you really like nods to '80s slasher flicks. Oh, and that you really enjoy seeing Megan Fox make out with Amanda Seyfried even if it makes such little sense within the context of the story that the actors themselves appear totally nonplussed by the moment.

Random might be the word that best characterizes Jennifer's Body, from the shocking act of destruction and horror that opens the film onward. If Satan were as real and as powerful as it is implied here, he'd have had a hand in that initial act, and we'd have enjoyed some implications that there truly is some awesome power of evil at work. But the only awesome power Cody seems to be aware of here is that of the non sequitur. It's all over Jennifer's Body, and it ain't the doing of Satan.



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