From Wikipedia: A sophomore slump or sophomore jinx refers to an instance in which a second, or sophomore, effort fails to live up to the standards of the first effort. It is commonly used to refer to the apathy of students (second year of college or university) the performance of athletes (second season of play), bands (sophomore album), television shows (second seasons) and movies (sequels/prequels).
After winning an honest to goodness Oscar, Hollywood wunderkind Diablo Cody released this. On the surface, it seems fine. I am sure that the overwhelming temptation would have been just to release something along the lines of Juno 2 and just reap in more accolades. At least she was trying to branch out to new territories (oh, and before you message me, I have never seen The United States of Tara before and am strictly referring to her cinematic accomplishments). But the surface is usually a treacherous thing, like the “surface” of a frozen pound that can’t take more than ten ounces of weight before breaking. It’s a film that’s all over the place and, despite admittedly having some good ideas, is ultimately to dense to realize them and focuses all of its energy on items that should have been delegated to the background.
The film opens in a mental asylum, in which a young woman named Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is being held. She relates the story of how she got there. Her best friend Jennifer (Megan Fox) took her to a bar to meet a band called Low Shoulder, whose lead singer she had a crush on. The bar burns down in the middle of the concert, and Jennifer is whisked away by the band. Instead of the usual coke orgy/chasing her around with a guitar and destroying a hotel room, the band instead has decided to sacrifice her to Satan so they can gain fame. Actually, in the short term, this works. But the problem is that the band believed Jennifer to be a virgin (“I’m not even a back door virgin anymore,” she explains later) and thus the sacrifice went wrong. A demon (they never exactly explain how this works) becomes trapped in Jennifer’s soul, requiring her to feed on human flesh in order to sustain the demon.
This film is one of those that goes all over the place. As such, it is very difficult to review. Do I treat is like camp or like serious horror? I guess I have to go to my old standby method.
So, what does the film set out to do? Basically, it attempts to combine two 80s genres that were popular amongst the youth – gory horror films and high schools films. It does this by creating a setting where the two could be seamlessly combined. The monsters are meant to be normal adolescent problems. Everyone knows a girl like Jennifer (or at least knew one) and probably more than one person visualized that some girl as a monster, the way that she used and cast people aside to further herself. I know I did. Again, to try and make that an actual source of horror and examine the emotions behind it – well, that is how memorable horror is made.
Now, does it succeed? No, for two reasons.
The first is the script. Now, the script of Juno was very well done and I am not going to try and take away from Diablo Cody. The problem is that that sort of script is all she seems to be able to do. This is not exactly a bad thing; most writers specialize in one specific topic. But still, horror is a whole different animal to the usual hipster dialogue that Cody specializes in. A lot of it feels desperately out of place, or (even worse) Cody starts with something funny and then builds up to the point that it just becomes camp. Example: the quote above about being a “back door virgin?” It is immediately followed by a description of how Jennifer had to sit on a bag of frozen peas for the entire day the next day. Yes, my life is now complete. This sort of thing happens all of the time. Cody will take one clever turn of phrase and then explain it to death so it just becomes mundane. In Juno, she had found her balance, and here she doesn’t. I don’t understand what happened in the interim.
And that is just the aesthetic of the script. The actual themes of post feminism and adolescence do not really work. Jennifer seems to think that the female body is actually a source of power in and of itself. Fine; I actually find myself agreeing with this argument. But she does not really use this in any of her killings; more than likely, she just sort of sweet talks a guy and then practically turns into Jason Vorhees. The film Teeth at least took it further – and thus, was more satisfying. Hell, the average episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has more to say about adolescent trauma than Jennifer’s Body does.
I am sure you have already guessed the second reason just looking at the cast list. Here it is: Megan Fox. I do not know why she is has become the next Hollywood sex symbol. Maybe this is because Hollywood is refusing to adhere to my “put Lily Cole in more films” policy, but seriously. Yes, I suppose her charms are bountiful, but Megan Fox looks exactly like every other “it” girl and has roughly the same depth. Please tell me I am not the only one who thinks, in real life, Amanda Seyfried is more desirable. Besides, the way she plays the character is completely wrong. To have been truly shocking, it would have required a performance that was not already off. For example, wouldn’t it have been a lot more horrifying if it was Amanda Seyfried who was possessed. Jennifer is already played as manipulating and a sociopath before she is possessed. Even the character’s seem to realize this (“she’s evil.” “I know.”). I have no clue why she was cast…maybe those posters had something to do with it.
So, the film is mostly a bust. The most I can do, if you really want to see it, is to tell you to watch Juno and The Evil Dead on separate TV screens, pausing one to occasionally look at the other. Does that sound like it would be a confusing chore that would offer nothing? Welcome to the film!