Joke's on us with 'The Informant!' - The Explorer: El Sol

Joke's on us with 'The Informant!'

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Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:25 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Associated Press

'The Informant!'

Rated R for language. 108 min. Three stars out of four.

The exclamation point in the title is your first clue that Steven Soderbergh's intentions here are more than a little askew.

Then you notice Matt Damon's helmet of hair, his pouf of a mustache, his corny sportswear and the paunch where the "Bourne” trilogy star's taut abs used to be. And once the strains of Marvin Hamlisch's jaunty score begin — an ideal accompaniment to the faded, '70s-style cinematography — you know you're in some vividly retro, comic parallel universe.

"The Informant!” is about a serious, real-life subject — a whistle-blower who spied for the FBI to expose corporate corruption — only Soderbergh, directing a script by Scott Z. Burns, approaches it in the goofiest way, rather than as a serious drama like "The Insider” or even his own "Erin Brockovich.”

It's a kick, really, but it also keeps you guessing: Is Damon, as Mark Whitacre, just a regular guy who gets in over his head? Is he far more scheming and malevolent than his folksy Midwestern demeanor would suggest? Or is something else entirely going on here? Damon doesn't just dig into the role physically.

He also keeps you on your toes with Whitacre's happy-go-lucky personality, a misplaced confidence that buoys him regardless of the situation, coupled with a surprisingly high comfort level for duplicity.

One of the neatest tricks that throws us off course is Whitacre's running interior monologue: a series of voiceovers in which he provides stream-of-consciousness musings on everything from indoor pools to the Japanese word for tuna. His thoughts may not be as innocuous as they seem.

'Jennifer's Body'

Rated R for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use. 100 min. Two stars out of four.

The second screenplay from Diablo Cody following her debut smash "Juno” is so chock full of her quirky trademarks, it almost plays like a parody of something she'd write.

The self-consciously clever dialogue, the gratuitous pop-culture references, the made-up phrases intended to convey a specific high school ethos — they're all there.

Even though fembot Megan Fox is an excellent fit to spit out these witty quips, it's all so familiar, it makes you wonder whether Cody has any other weapons in her arsenal. Part of the allure of the Showtime series Cody created, "The United States of Tara” — beyond the versatility of star Toni Collette — is the humor she finds in everyday suburbia, the reality and the absurdity. And that's the best part of "Jennifer's Body,” too.

Never mind that it's a mash-up of horror flick and teen comedy: When her characters talk about regular stuff like awkward adolescent sex and high-school dances, it's funny in a relatable way. It's when Cody tries too hard to dazzle us that she loses her footing; meanwhile, director Karyn Kusama struggles in her own way to find the right tone.

The result: "Jennifer's Body” is never scary and only sporadically amusing. Fox is a great choice, though, to play Jennifer, the queen bee in the small town of Devil's Kettle. One night, after attending a concert by her favorite band that goes disastrously awry, Jennifer seems … different.

This is immediately obvious to her childhood best friend, the nerdy Needy (Amanda Seyfried). But soon the whole town knows something's wrong when boys' bodies start turning up eviscerated.

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