Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

Sponsored links

The unrated cut of Jennifer’s Body is slightly more flavorful than the theatrical serving, but it’s still a Diablo Cody recipe that won’t satisfy all tastes.

El Kettle del Diablo

Unrated version a slight improvement
Unrated version a slight improvement

A mélange of genres, Jennifer’s Body tries to offer a little something for everybody, but the magnitude to which it sucks has nothing to do with the fact that it’s really just a vampire movie.

The guts of the story revolve around high school hottie Jennifer Check (Megan Fox, Transformers), living in a Podunk town called Devil’s Kettle. For some inexplicable reason, she’s infatuated with a “big city” guyliner band called Low Shoulder; she scoped them out on MySpace (the people of Devil’s Kettle haven’t gotten wind yet that MySpace is passé).

The dive bar venue burns to the ground early in the band’s set. Amid the chaos, the lead singer latches on to Jennifer’s earlier advances and, somehow assuming she’s still a virgin by virtue of her small town residence, invites her into the band’s van. Turns out, they’re not after sex. They’re Satanist wannabes and their intent is to sacrifice her to the devil so they can attain the same lofty success as Maroon 5. And they do it with a Bowie knife.

That’s cute, as far as vampire movies go.

But Jennifer’s not a virgin, so she suffers eternal damnation, roaming the high school’s hallways, scoping out the next boy to entice with her vixen charms before taking them for a good ol’ fashioned suck ‘n’ gut.

Jennifer’s (Unrated) Body

Jennifer’s Body was written by Diablo Cody, a writer whose career took a meteoric rise to Oscar winner with her debut screenplay, Juno. Trouble is Cody too often strikes the wrong tone this time around.

The unrated cut presented on Blu-ray is an opportunity to give the material a second chance and it proves to be a modest step up from the theatrical version. Given an extra five minutes, some of the time is spent on the loss felt by the parents, particularly in a faulty scene which falls short of the uncomfortable expression of anguish more elegantly, and honestly, expressed in Twin Peaks. Other scenes are slightly extended and some scenes, particularly at the opening, are reordered to provide greater effect.

Even so, the biggest problems that plagued the theatrical release are still an issue in the extended, unrated version. The sense of a dustup between serious social commentary and the snarky still hampers the tone and Cody’s dialogue is still clever to the point of distraction. Jennifer’s Body ultimately remains a slasher flick of a different cut: It’s a horror-slash-sex-comedy-slash-drama-slash-coming-of-age movie.

That overly-ambitious mix undermines the more interesting terror of best-girlfriend relationships. The problem seems to be Cody is too distracted by her desire to mock pop culture and the media while also being a complete and utter lapdog to them. At the same time, she also tries to serve up something akin to serious observations about adolescence. Perhaps the real demons here relate to Cody’s admitted “obsession” with teenagers; maybe her attempts to graft pop culture references from her own youth (such as Cindy Crawford, Phil Collins, even Soupy Sales) onto the modern teens in her stories is a sign of her struggling with her own maturity.

Given a little more focus on the story at hand and creating cheesy horror movie chills rather than sticking satirical jabs into recent wounds in American history (Columbine and 9/11 in particular), the movie could’ve been scarier — and funnier. As it stands, Jennifer’s Body winds up feeling like nothing more than a guilty pleasure wannabe. It’s all talk, albeit this time with a little more bite.

Blu-ray Extras

A few items are shared across the 2-disc Blu-ray and the single-disc DVD.

The theatrical cut is accompanied by a feature-length running commentary with writer Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama. It’s fairly standard, but manages to be somewhat enlightening and entertaining. One of the best bits is when Cody tells of a conversation she had with Eli Roth (the director of Saw). He apparently told her one of her ideas was stupid; it’s not clear how it was said and with what tone, but she shunned the criticism and pursued the idea. If anything, that incident serves as evidence Cody strives to be too clever at times. But at least she’s consistent. Her too-hip dialogue can be grating. She can be as well. And she’s not at all shy about expressing an extremely ignorant view of Sept. 11.

The unrated cut includes a selected-scenes commentary from Kusama; it’s not a complete running commentary, instead the comments coincide with scenes differing from the theatrical cut. At those times, a clapboard appears a moment before Kusama speaks. The comments oftentimes simply cover the obvious, that being the difference between the cuts. There’s also an overstated analysis of the opening scene chronology; although it is informative that the studio honchos wanted to emphasize Jennifer’s body, literally, from the first frames.

The third feature is “freaktarded,” to use Cody’s vernacular. It’s a new FoxPop feature (using Spot411 technology) that supposedly syncs up via PC or mobile device with the movie’s audio, allowing participants to gather trivia and do things like comment on Facebook and Twitter during the movie. Attempts were made to use the gizmo, but to no avail. At one point, the software tried to tell me I was watching(500) Days of Summer. The software even said the volume appeared to be sufficient, but regardless of whether the firewall was on or off, it certainly wasn’t finding Jennifer’s Body. The question is, given BD-Live connectivity, native BD Internet communications, and the capacity for super-slick PIP trivia tracks, why all the effort to extend out to a PC or iPhone? This feature is advertised only via an insert and not on the Blu-ray jacket, perhaps indicative this one’s not ready for prime time. It’s supposedly available with other titles from other studios, including Paramount’s Star Trek, but that Blu-ray set makes no mention whatsoever of the feature.

Blu-ray Exclusives

The bulk of the supplements are exclusive to the Blu-ray release. Perhaps as a harbinger Fox has shifted away from DVD, the packaging makes no hubbub over the exclusivity of the features. In any case, what’s here makes for a surprisingly solid package.

The Video Diaries are 13 minutes of on-set footage shot using handheld, consumer-grade video cameras. The segment gets an “A” for presentation, with the video framed by notebook paper and subtitles and other notes using a hand script font. Cody comes across as more fun to be around than she does in the commentary. Most of the content centers around the climactic pool scene, but a smidge takes place at the dive bar.

There are six deleted scenes spanning 14 minutes; these aren’t rough cut scenes, they’re completed scenes with music cues and visual effects. They’re certainly worth a look, although the value of the content varies from scene to scene. Some even add a little more creepiness that could’ve helped the final cut. One in particular, though, involves a parent/student confrontation at a funeral that serves up potty-mouthed parents more reminiscent of Sam Witwicky’s parents in Transformers than Cody would care to admit.

The 5-minute Gag Reel starts as a standard assembly of bloopers then turns into a music video of assorted behind-the-scenes footage set against Through the Trees. Take it or leave it.

Jennifer’s Body: The Dead Pool is a 14-minute featurette that starts and ends with comments on the life-long competition between girls, even those who are “best friends forever,” which is a core theme in Jennifer’s Body. Unfortunately, the bulk of the segment goes back to the pool set for more coverage of the practical and prosthetic effects involved in the sequence.

Megan Fox Is Hot is an unnecessary 1-minute collage of Megan Fox footage from the movie. But, yeah, she is hot.

Megan Fox “Peer Pressure” PSA is a wee gem. Within the spot’s 40 seconds it goes from what appears to be a legitimate public service announcement to a total spoof of same.

Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School with Writer Diablo Cody is a full 26-minutes episode in which Cody is interviewed by three film students. Cody comes across very well in this interview; beneath the makeup and new ‘do, she’s down to earth while she describes her post-Oscar life and explains why she’s obsessed with teenagers.

The second disc includes the digital copy download for use on home computers and portable devices.

Picture and Sound

Both cuts of Jennifer’s Body are presented in a well-done 1.85:1 transfer featuring just the right amount of film grain. And it does an exceptional job of maintaining the details in all that wallpaper.

As for the audio specs, tracks are available in English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 as well as French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1. The soundtrack comes to life particularly during scenes backed up by the score and rock beats; Through the Trees resonates with all the anthemic emo Low Shoulder could possibly hope for.

Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Thai.

How to Use This Disc

Go straight to the unrated cut. Then for a little more gas, check out the “Peer Pressure” PSA and deleted scenes.