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“Jennifer’s Body” a witty, surreal teen comedy

Amanda Seyfried weathers flesh-eating demons, whiny indie bands and poof sleeves in "Jennifer's Body."

Amanda Seyfried weathers flesh-eating demons, whiny indie bands and poof sleeves in "Jennifer's Body."

I knew it. I knew it. I knew that if I hoped and prayed and wished and waited a long, long time that the Bizarro Alternate World would take over and the unthinkable would happen. And in “Jennifer’s Body,” the unthinkable has become reality: The brunette’s dicing up male hearts like room-temperature butter, and her mousy blonde friend — who wears tortoise-shell glasses! — is nothing but a mopey, fraidy-cat sidekick.

(Sigh.)

It turns out this is not Bizzaro Alternate World so much as just the warped plot of the Diablo Cody-penned wittier-than-thou “Jennifer’s Body,” a pointless but way fun horror comedy that lampoons teen movie cliches with wicked glee. And since this is, you know, Diablo Cody, all the fun is wrapped up in dialogue so sharp and self-conciously urbane that you have shredded murder victims described as “lasagna with teeth” and an indie band frontman (Adam Brody) who yearns to “reach out to fans in the shitty areas, too.”  

Yep, “Jennifer’s Body” is that kind of movie, another hip reinvention of the teen horror movie that ends up completely farfetched but also completely enjoyable. Part of that trashy fun stems from Megan Fox’s rather impressive performance as Jennifer Check, the resident hottie at Devil’s Kettle High School who spends her post-cheer practice time consuming male flesh. (She’s not killing people, you understand; she’s “killing boys.” There’s a difference.) There’s Brilliant Subversion No. 2 — a girl who’s not the victim, who is, in fact, making mincemeat out of boys? Love it. Standing petrified on the sidelines is Anita “Needy” Lesnicky (the insanely talented Amanda Seyfried), who suspects her more socially desirable B.F.F. — “sandbox love never dies” Needy offers up as reasoning for their unlikely friendship — is a killer. Too bad Needy can’t get her sensitive, Strokes haircut-sporting boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) to believe her. But she has to try real hard because if not The Big Dance will become (he he) an “all-you-can-eat buffet.”

That’s what I love most about “Jennifer’s Body,” lines like that. These words bear no resemblance to the way people actually talk, though if they do it’s probably because everybody saw “Juno,” figured it was the new “Clueless” and started a flip pad of jargon. (Come to think of it, that isn’t a half-bad idea, starting a log of Diablo Cody-isms. She’s so hot these days.) There are other killers so funny it’s nearly impossible to laugh at them. Needy and Jennifer’s pet names for each other? Monastat and Vagisil. Jennifer is “actually evil, not high-school evil.” When Chip’s mom begs him to carry pepper spray to the dance, he responds: “I can take care of myself. I’ve been using the Bowflex.” And there’s a bit about Thai food and sex that might cause public consumption of pad Thai to go up or down depending.

This whimsical absurdism bleeds (pardon the pun) into much of “Jennifer’s Body,” which means there’s not much substance — unless you count the characters. Fox does more than what’s expected of her — she proved she had comedic chops in “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” but, really, who saw this coming? — and has a lot of fun with Jennifer. Her delivery’s just right, though it’s doubtful any man in attendance will notice. With the way Fox fills out her teeny heart hoodies, ushers should have buckets handy to catch the drool. But enough about Fox. Why use too many words for her when there’s a better, meatier part played by a better actress with more range? Given her own fair looks, it’s shocking to see Amanda Seyfried plain-Jane it up as Needy, but she looks every inch the meek friend. There’s a sadness to Needy that Seyfried’s not afraid to explore, and later a looming darkness that’s unnerving, not the least bit cutsey. This is why Seyfried will become a household name — she’s got such talent you can’t help but like her in anything.

Jennifer may be the body, see, but Needy’s the soul. And hey, someone’s got to do the real heavy lifting while Megan Fox makes sexy.

Grade: B-

Damon grounds Soderbergh’s gnarly, screwball “The Informant!”

Agent 007, listen up: You got nothin' on Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), who blows the whistle on corporate price fixing in "The Informant!"

Agent 007, listen up: You got nothin' on Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), who blows the whistle on corporate price fixing in "The Informant!"

Matt Damon, it would seem, is on a mission to make Trey Parker and Matt Stone chow down on some crow — big, heapin’ pie shells full of it. Since 2004, when “Team America” gave us the Matt Damon puppet, the Oscar winner has headlined two more “Ocean’s” movies, another Bourne thriller and mind-benders like “The Departed” and “Syriana.” And now he’s gone and tackled Mark Whitacre, that squirrelly fellow who blew the lid off a huge price-fixing scheme perpetrated by lysine development conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), in the mid-1990s.

How does Damon fare, you wonder? Let’s just say Trey and Matt might need to rifle their utensil drawers for some big ole’ wooden spoons. Damon is flat-out fantastic in Soderbergh’s twisty, witty corporate thriller, finding comedy in Whitacre’s delusions — he’s 0014, he insists, because he’s “twice as smart as 007” — but also the boredom and unhappiness that puddle at the roots. This is a whopper of a performance, sad and humorous and disturbing, but so subtle that it probably won’t earn Damon any nominations. But acting this good is a triumph in itself.

Soderbergh, who seems to have some innate softness for whistle-blowers (“Erin Brockovich,” “The Insider”), lets Damon stand at the center of Scott Burns’ adapted screenplay. That’s a wise decision, considering it gives “The Informant!” a dose of humanity to offset the air of whimsy, the pretzel-like script and the dementedly chirpy score (direct all praise to composer Marvin Hamlisch). Whitacre’s an ambitious man looking to ascend the ranks at ADM, so he’s none too happy when his wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) forces him to detail ADM’s global price-fixing plot to FBI Special Agent Brian Shepherd (Scott Bakula, playing the bemused straight man). The feds get involved — including Special Agent Bob Herndon (Joel McHale, who’s sold out and probably can’t keep at it with that “Talk Soup” gig much longer) — and Whitacre ends up sporting wires, orchestrating clandestine meetings and, eventually, narcing on pretty much everyone who signs his sizable paychecks. And yet there’s so much more to the story, including a complex subplot involving a $9 million embezzlement scheme so mind-boggling in its flagrant stupidity that the feds don’t think to look for it.

Certainly there’s enough mayhem in Burns’ screenplay — adapted from Kurt Eichenwald’s book — to keep viewers occupied for days. How could ADM keep a scam this big going so long? How many people were really involved, and how many had dirt on their hands? And the biggest question: Why would a man netting well over $300,000 a year even think of making a peep? The beauty of “The Informant!” is that we get few answers, and we get no answer at all to the last question. It’s all buildup and almost no release, no spoon-fed conclusion or resolution to settle that slightly sick feeling in our stomachs. While it’s plain fact that ADM faced stiff fines — to the tune of $100 million — and a few top execs did light jail time, Whitacre spent more than eight years in federal prison on those embezzlement charges. He did a public service, sure, but he paid handsomely for it. We’re left wondering uneasily: Did the real crooks get away because the informant had a few stacks of cash in his closet?

The way Damon plays him, no one can tell. He gives away nothing about Whitacre’s motivations (think Chris Cooper in “Breach”), providing us only with a surprisingly nuanced portrait of a man living so far inside his own head it’s a wonder he could hear people when they spoke to him. He spins wild yarns while acting cooperative, then retreats into his inner stream-of-consciousness monologue. Damon reveals more humanity in these moments than we expect — just watch the scene where his wife (Lynskey’s marvelous here) and Shepherd (Bakula has depth too) catch him in his last lie. The emotions — exhaustion and fear and resignation — that play on Damon’s face will twist your heart painfully. That’s what sticks with us when the music fades and the jokes dry up. Somehow the words “Matt Damon” don’t ring quite so funny. 

Grade: B+