[21 September 2009]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Maybe Maxim readers don’t go to the movies. Perhaps horror, no matter how “hot” the monster, is still an isolated demographical given. It could be that Diablo Cody has shot her literary wad already, proving that Juno might just have been the cinematic equivalent of Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s “Come On, Eileen”. Or maybe it’s about time to admit what has been all but painfully true to anyone who thinks with their brain and not some other organ - Megan Fox is merely ordinary. She’s far from a great beauty and clearly a less than significant movie “star”. Having an F-me face and an F-you body does not an accomplished actress make, and with her exceptionally mediocre onscreen resume, why anyone celebrates said below-averageness is astonishing.
What, exactly, makes Megan Fox special? Her seven-eighths whore, one-eighth air biscuit persona clearly stirs the overindulged loins of geek/jock/middle-aged prevert nation, and a media recognizing exactly where the disposable cash lies in this limp economy, has jumped on said bandwagon like a fair-weather sports fan. But popularity is not perspective. If it was, the Pet Rock would be a PS3. Ms. Fox may have some inherent quality that fails to fully come across on a camera, an innate kindness or depth than disappears once the blaring lights of lime hit her mannequin like mug. And when gauged against dozens of other far more fetching performers, she’s nothing but an animated Real Doll.
Revoke this critic’s membership in the male gender if you must, but there’s hasn’t been this much unmitigated hoopla surrounding a subpar product since Apple announced the arrival of the horrid handheld Newton. Somewhere, in her self-imposed exile, Phoebe Cates is laughing her equally touted ‘80s tush off. Fox hasn’t proven anything by being the slightly less mechanical eye candy in the hot and cold Transformers films, was equally weak playing basically herself in the absolutely awful How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, and proved this weekend that she can’t open a modest, made to order movie like Jennifer’s Body. Indeed, despite a massive publicity campaign that had every hack website with a horror-based nomenclature declaring its brilliance, the supposedly most beautiful woman in the world could barely drum up double digit box office. Sorry, sweetie, but $6.7 million doesn’t cut it in wannabe A-list territory.
But is it really Fox’s fault? Is her blank persona and centerfold ambiguity really the reason why people failed to flock to this faux fright funny business? Reviewers have been extremely harsh on the Fempire’s CEO for her self-indulgent and conscious screenplay, many suggesting it plays like Diablo Cody parodying a Diablo Cody script. Others point to the flop sweat still streaming off director Karyn Kusama’s career. In a strange sort of cinematic synchronicity, the Girlfight helmer took a true super beauty, Charlize Theron, and almost destroyed her commercial credibility with the groan-inducing live action adaptation of MTV fave Aeon Flux. So with two seeming strikes against it Jennifer’s Body had to have a solid lead to help lift it over some possible problems. It certainly didn’t need Ms. Fox’s inert charms to further undermine the material.
This is Fox’s eighth year as a ‘professional’. She got her start, of all places, with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson in one of the twins patented direct to video cash machines, Holiday in the Sun. She then parlayed that success into a long running stint on the surreal Swedish sudser Ocean Ave. (don’t worry - we hadn’t heard of it either). Then came an uncredited turn in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II, a couple of one shot sitcom stints, a pretty hefty part in the Linsday Lohan mess Confessions of a Teen Age Drama Queen, and 37 episodes of the ABC laugher Hope & Faith. Yet it was a bunch of battling alien robots with magical mutation powers that put her on the map, Bay remembering the carnal Cupie Doll from the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence cop rocker. The rest, as they say, is slo-mo close-up of her ruby red lips (slightly parted) history.
A billion magazines and soured cheesecake photos later and the whole planet is agog. While there is no accounting for taste (beauty remains in the eye of the beholder, no matter how much the TV and tabloids try to tell us differently), it’s clear that Fox is another in a long line of hollow honeys that’s use publicity over performance to achieve her a certain level of stardom. Hollywood does indeed have a history of such questionably attractive anomalies. People poo-poo’ed Jayne Mansfield as a sorry, second-class Marilyn Monroe (she was a decent lowbrow onscreen comedienne, however) while the ‘60s shoveled all kinds of pert pin-ups on the raging hormones of an underage audience. Some were actually incredibly talented - Rachel Welch - while others -Joey Heatherton - seemed famous just for being that - famous.
Fox clearly falls into the latter category, a commodity constantly presold without a great deal of actual interest or purpose. If she were really this smoking too-hot-to-handle superstar, if she were everything the PR machine makes her out to be, Jennifer’s Body would have put a double barreled smackdown on its less than hefty competition (including an incomprehensibly bad Jennifer Aniston RomCom and the second week of Tyler Perry’s fire and brimstone branding). While fifth place is not last, it’s also not the spot reserved for someone who is constantly touted as something far above average. Yet it’s clear that, outside of the hoopla, she’s just about that. Even her overall Rotten Tomatoes (46%)/Metacritic (47%) suggests a C- ranking.
Maybe decades from now, when clearer heads prevail, Fox will be viewed through the far more discerning eye that comes with temporal clarity. Her manufactured splendor and sleaze-skank-saint schizophrenia will be measured alongside her many (or nonexistent) accomplishments and a true evaluation can be made. If history is any indication, she’ll be filed away as a flash in the pan, a TMZ-style starlet statistic, a where-are-they-now trivia question, or a well-respected actress who reinvented herself to avoid the constant claims of “talentless floozy.” Granted, there’s still a lot of grandstanding and backhanded bandwagoning going on, and with the big budget comic book adaptation of Jonah Hex in the works, Fox remains poised to be a People magazine mainstay until long after John and Kate become fame whore flameouts. Still, as this weekend proves, it’s gonna take a lot more than attention to get this plasticine pariah to be anything other than a debateable dreamboat.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/111504-megan-lox/