Beaten Over the Head with a Pom-Pom

09/16/2009 4:00 AM |

Jennifer’s Body
Directed by Karyn Kusama

Diablo Cody’s teen monster sex farce Jennifer’s Body treats its audience like angelic pre-teens. From the laughably self-serious opening line—”Hell is a teenage girl,” spoken in voice—over by Needy (Amanda Seygfried) before she recounts events that led to her institutionalization-to the clumsy pastiche of Buffy, Carrie and innumerable other supernatural teen narratives, screenwriter Cody (Juno) ruthlessly literalizes every allegory the genre has to offer. After nerdy Needy’s cheerleader BFF Jennifer (Megan Fox), under the false pretext of being a virgin, is sacrificed to Satan by an indie-rock band from “the city” in exchange for success, she’s left to terrorize the town of Devil’s Kettle as a flesh-eating demon.

The infantilizing genre exercise beats its audience over the head with ideas as fluffy and familiar as the pom-pom that Jennifer brandishes in an early American Beauty-quoting sequence. If you didn’t realize that ravenous hunger symbolizes sexual arousal, Jennifer helpfully eats and molests her victims simultaneously. The homoerotic charge to her relationship with Needy should be plainly clear from their inter-cut sex scenes, but just in case, their lesbian make-out session will help you catch the undercurrent. Whatever subtext isn’t translated into plain text is frightfully regressive: the mourning town is both post-Columbine Colorado and post-9/11 New York; teen sex, whether kinky or vanilla, is unpleasant. The toothless tale of monstrous adolescent sexualities terrorizing small-town America exhausts its campy charms in mere minutes, devolving into a series of bad jokes, tiresome frights and egregious titillations.

Opens September 18