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      Jennifer's Body Review

      Jennifer's Body poster

      Jennifer's Body

      Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

      From her earlier days and nights as a blogger and a pole dancer, screenwriter Diablo Cody knows a lot about the power of eyeballs, the predominance of the male gaze and the raging narcissism that feeds so many personalities, good and evil. Cody's Oscar-winning script for "Juno" revealed a highly stylized comic sensibility, as well as an arch-fiend of cleverness behind each turn of phrase. Her second script to reach the screen is "Jennifer's Body," which, like its privileged title character both before and after demonic possession, would seem to have everything going for it.

      And, yet, no. Striving for horror, comedy and anti-mean-girl empowerment, built on an amusing indictment of just how far an ambitious alt-rock band might go to become famous, "Jennifer's Body" wants it all. Yet the tone wavers, the direction's slackly indecisive and visually drab, and in the middle of it is a thinly conceived antagonist played by Megan Fox. Honestly, she's a pretty bad actress. She doesn't seem to get Cody's sense of humor. At all.

      I suppose it's some sort of reverse-sexism, but with an estrogen-centric project like "Jennifer's Body," I expected something more, and more provocatively subversive. Jennifer is the designated pole star of Devil's Kettle, Minn., high school life. Her BFF is Needy (Amanda Seyfried), who is nice, and whose boyfriend (Johnny Simmons) is nice too.

      Jennifer is not. She is a compendium of every bullying personality trait known to young womanhood. When this sexually experienced but insecure woman becomes the victim of a Satanic ritual conducted by a traveling rock band fronted by Nikolai (Adam Brody), her garden-variety nastiness becomes something else. The bait-and-switch here is simple: Flash a little skin, then sink the fangs in.

      Cody hasn't figured out how to make Jennifer's initial loathsomeness interesting. The movie's partially redeemed by Seyfried, who makes her character more than a repository for audience sympathy. (Her make-out scene with Fox is handled with more suspense and care than anything else in the movie.) The scary material, by contrast, doesn't scare. The film is framed as an extended flashback narrated by Needy, who must take vengeance upon the boys who messed things up for her and Jennifer, and as it proceeds you're thinking: I hope this isn't just a story about a sweet kid figuring out that her stuck-up friend was toxic even before she had fangs.

      MPAA rating: R (for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use).

      Running time: 1:41.

      Starring: Megan Fox (Jennifer); Amanda Seyfried (Needy); Johnny Simmons (Chip); Adam Brody (Nikolai); J K. Simmons (Mr. Wroblewski).

      Directed by Karyn Kusama; written by Diablo Cody; produced by Jason Reitman, Mason Novick and Daniel Dubiecki. A 20th Century Fox release.

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