WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Jennifer Check and Anita "Needy" Lesnicky are lifelong best friends and high school students in tiny Devil's Kettle Minnesota. Needy is the practical bookish counterpart to small-town sexpot cheerleader Jennifer who controls most everyone around her — Needy included — with knowing relish using her hypnotic good looks. After Jennifer and Needy escape a grisly fire at the local dive bar Jennifer is whisked away in a creeper van by the band that was playing there despite Needy's pleas not to. In a "sell your soul for rock and roll"-style move the fame-hungry indie rockers Low Shoulder kill Jennifer in an occult virgin sacrifice ceremony which goes awry because Jennifer isn't one. After being left for dead Jennifer shows up at Needy's house covered in blood spewing black bile and grinning wickedly.
The next day amidst the fire tragedy aftermath Devil's Kettle's star football player is found disemboweled and half-eaten in the woods adjacent to the school. Jennifer of course did it and after the vixen kills a sweet emo boy she confesses to Needy (after a too-brief girl-on-girl makeout session complete with heavy tongue close-ups) that the botched sacrifice turned her into a demon and that she becomes happier and more beautiful — and thus deadlier — after she feasts on the blood of horny high school boys. Needy does some research in the occult section of the high school library and discovers her best friend is indeed a pawn of the devil. Needy warns her boyfriend Chip to watch out for Jennifer and consequently finds herself covered in bile with Chip dead in her arms at the prom because he doesn't. Then she seeks revenge.
WHO'S IN IT?
The ever enjoyable Amanda Seyfried takes the lead as plain jane Needy and Johnny Simmons is her sweet doting boyfriend Chip. Adam Brody doing a spot-on Brandon Flowers impression is the killer front man of Low Shoulder. Amy Sedaris makes a too-brief cameo as Needy's mom and Juno's dad J.K. Simmons is a high school teacher with an unexplained hook for a hand. Megan Fox is in it too.
Diablo Cody's script is smart funny and infinitely more interesting than the typical teen slasher swill. The movie revels in its gory moments without being gratuitous and employs a healthy amount of sex without coming off like it's pandering to horny teens. Rather Jennifer's Body is the perfect template for the incomparably hot Megan Fox to use her looks as a plot-forwarding mechanism. This is a professionally signficant departure from her eye candy turns in the Transformers movies and lets Fox prove that she can actually act. There's no one else in Hollywood right now better suited to this role. Fox's performance is unhinged and charming and she makes good use of all the Diablo Cody-isms ("You need a mani bad. You should find a Chinese chick to buff your situation.") that devil-may-care Jennifer gets to utter. The love/hate best friend relationship is interesting and there's a load of good-girl-gone-wrong catharsis in Seyfried's revenge-fueled rampage. Cody and director Karyn Kusama are adept in skillfully if a bit condescendingly creating a convincing depiction of a small Midwestern town which serves as the perfect ultra-real backdrop for the story.
Cody's unique style adds the perfect quirk factor to what could otherwise be run-of-the-mill cinematic garbage.The Cody-isms however sometimes come off as cloying when they aren't being uttered by Fox. Also hopeful Fox worshippers might be disappointed that the sexually radiant actress despite her character's penchant for using sex to lure her victims doesn't actually bare anything that necessitates the film's R-rating.
With its surprising plot twists a snarky bff vs. bff subplot and Cody's flair for linguistics Jennifer's Body is a smart horror flick for anyone who enjoys jolly gore or Megan Fox in a mini-skirt.
Morris Buttermaker (Thornton) doesn't really let himself get too involved in anything. He wakes up drinks a beer exterminates a few household pests for a living drinks some more beers and maybe gets laid. That's about it. Sure he was once a professional baseball player who pitched in the Show for about two-thirds of an inning but now he just uses that experience to pick up women. One such woman a tough-nut lawyer and overachieving single mom (Marcia Gay Harden) bribes Buttermaker into coaching her son's Little League team. Suddenly faced with a woefully inept racially mixed team of 12 misfits Buttermaker has got to whip them--as well as himself--into shape if they have any chance of making it to the championship let alone beating the reviled returning champs the Yankees and their overbearing coach (Greg Kinnear). Yeah Buttermaker is about to get seriously involved.
Although it's hard to top Walter Matthau's original irascible Buttermaker casting Thornton as the baseball-pelting beer-swillin' yet lovable curmudgeon is kind of a no-brainer. Since Bad Santa the actor--with his devilish goatee unkempt hair and rumpled clothes--has become the new W.C. Fields albeit an edgier one capitalizing on the I'll-deal-with-kids-but-I-really-don't-like-them persona. On top of that Thornton has a killer under-his-breath delivery especially when he's trying to dole out er words of wisdom to his team: "I know a tie is a lot like kissing your sister but the way we've been coming along it's more like kissing a really hot stepsister." The kid actors--most of them unknowns--also do a fine job. You've got the usual suspects from the first movie: the rather rotund Engleberg (Brandon Craggs); the hotheaded Tanner (Timmy Deters); and the shy and weird Lupus (Tyler Patrick Jones). Then you've got slight variations: the statistic-spouting nerd is now an Indian kid (Aman Johal) who carries around a laptop; an Armenian kid (Jeffrey Tedmori) struggles with the beliefs of his old-fashioned family; and a wheelchair-bound paraplegic (Troy Gentile) represents the politically correct "every kid can play" mentality. The one player hard to replace in the remake however is the team's ace in the hole pitcher Amanda Whurlitzer. Tatum O'Neal played her brilliantly in the original as a tough but sensitive girl who could pitch the ball like there's no tomorrow but who was looking for a father figure. She sparred well with the crabby Matthau. In this version Amanda is played by newcomer Sammi Kane Kraft a real-life ace pitcher who can't quite measure up in the acting department. Tatum you were missed.
The 1976 Bad News Bears was ahead of its time. A story about a less-than-warm-and-cuddly coach who lets the kids smoke drink beer curse up a storm and spout politically incorrect racial slurs wasn't something you usually saw in a so-called "kid" movie. But it managed to hit a home run with the anti-establishment. Unfortunately you couldn't make the same movie in today's more conservative climate but director Richard Linklater (School of Rock) sure tries his darnedest to give the audience a taste of what made playing with the original Bears so much fun. In this Bad News Bears the kids still mouth-off and Buttermaker still drinks. Several scenes such as Buttermaker telling Amanda to quit trying to make him her father are taken verbatim from the original. Even the same albeit cleverly disguised variation of Bizet's Carmen punctuates the action. But my question is this: if the burning desire to re-create the classic was too great why make an almost exact replica minus all the political incorrectness (which basically made the original such a hoot anyway)? Why not veer off and do something different? I suppose it's Linklater's way to bring in a new crop of fans who haven't seen the Matthau/O'Neal version as well as a way to pay homage. Still if I wanted to see the real Bad News Bears I'd rent the original.