Like it or loathe it, we can at least agree Diablo Cody’s Juno was grounded in some kind of consistent reality, even one entirely of her own making. While it’s true no one actually talks like Ellen Page’s character — “pork swords”? — she seemed the perfect channel for Cody’s snarky, super-precious dialogue. We cared about her, despite her constant verbal flim flam. Alas, Cody doesn’t get so lucky with her latest screenplay effort, directed by relative newcomer Karyn Kusama. Megan Fox might be easy on the eyes, but she has almost no hope of capturing the proper wit and self-conscious sarcasm necessary to make Cody’s otherwise thin characters more flesh and blood.
Mind you, blood actually factors greatly to the story, such as it is, which concerns Jennifer (Fox) and her BFF, Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Friends since early childhood, Jennifer is the sexual bombshell, and Needy supports her already healthy ego by being hesitant and bookwormish. In short order, Jennifer is nabbed by a demonic indie band (one of the few truly funny conceits of the film: the band has to make a deal with the devil to have any chance of making it in today’s oversaturated market), and turned into a blood-soaked demon, needing to feed on smitten high school boys. There are several amusing side pieces, and ample examples of Cody dialogue, replete with homemade slang (“salty,” “freaktarded,” “cheese and fries”), but otherwise, the whole enterprise has the slight and half-baked feel of a rushed first draft.
Of the two leads, the talented Seyfried is far better equipped to contend with Cody’s particular brand of verbal insouciance. Just as David Mamet requires actors who know how to properly articulate his stylized lines, Cody needs actresses like Page and Seyfried in order for her characterizations to have any weight. There is some half-hearted attempt at horror shtick, almost entirely clichéd variations on the scary fake-out, but, ultimately, the film lives — and mostly dies — on the strength of Fox and Seyfried’s chemistry. It is here where the film really seems to falter — hyped-up Sapphic make-out session or no. Their relationship simply isn’t grounded enough for us to believe in it, or its subsequent demise, nor Needy’s speedy transformation into a would-be demon killer. Hell might be a teenage girl, as Needy informs us at the beginning, but this film is a bit closer to purgatory.
Special features included in the BD version: an audio commentary with director Kusama, deleted scenes, a gag reel, bloopers, video diaries, and a bunch of featurettes on the phenomenon of Megan Fox.
Piers Marchant is a Philly-based writer and editor, and the EIC (and film critic) for two.one.five magazine (215mag.com). His reviews can be found on 215mag.com and his tumblr blog, Sweet Smell of Success. You can also follow him on twitter @kafkaesque83.