It may be just me, but I'm convinced that Juno, the titular character in this new holiday film, has in many ways been inhabited with the spirit of Sarah Silverman. Juno seems to have at times the infamous female comic's sassy wit and bittersweet charm.
Thankfully, Juno lacks Silverman's air of offensiveness, and far removed is the comedienne's arrogant, self-involved, yet serendipitous nature. However, there are some moments, especially one-liners that spew from Juno's mouth that, if I closed my eyes, I'd swear I were listening to Silverman's caustic tongue.
JUNO is the third movie this year to take place within a time span in total of nine months. Yes, it bookends a trifecta of comedic 2007 films about unwanted pregnancies, but this one is the first, and probably the most mainstream, movie involving a 16-year-old having to come to terms with a pending newborn.
In 2004, a very popular indie film called "Saved!" dealt with similar subject matter but did not get anywhere near the distribution of this new film. "Saved!" was more or less a satire on religion and politics, while this new movie is at its core a simple love story.
While this winsome, suburban romp may not have the high joke-per-minute ratio as this summer's "Knocked Up" nor a sumptuous, mouth-watering cinematic style and pervasive quirkiness that made this spring's "Waitress" a hit, "Juno" does manage to catch a genie in a bottle, one that grants the wish of humanistic affection.
Director Jason Reitman ("Thank You For Smoking") does little to impress here. Besides a very intriguing rotoscoped, animated opening title sequence, a car traveling scene that required no camera movement, clever use of cutaways, and perhaps an influencing of his art department to pepper this film favorably with yellow and blue colors, I see no hint of a director at all in this movie. Reitman, along with his actors rightly focus on the story, these characters and the pitch-perfect dialogue so excellently written by Diablo Cody.
Ellen Page stars as Juno, a sophomore in high school who takes three home pregnancy tests to be sure that she's now got a problem on her hands. She made a mistake, but she's not some out-of-control young girl. She's smart and loving and responsible. Yes, she has at times a bitter sense of humor but at heart she's very sweet. She fell in love with a boy and made a mistake and now she has to deal with it.
Her plan is to give the baby up for adoption to a paranoid yuppie couple who she believes will be better suited to parent and raise the child than she, even with her parents' help. Her parents are disappointed but support their little junebug. Juno meets the yuppie couple and finds that there are some dovetailing interests that make the couple attractive, especially the husband, almost too attractive.
Jason Bateman ("Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and "The Kingdom") plays Mark Loring, the husband of the yuppie couple. In what could have been an all too familiar, all too cliché role, Bateman gives a grounded and probably the best performance of his career, as the idea of fatherhood is all of sudden thrust upon him while in many ways he's still a kid, no older than Juno in his heart. Meanwhile he's being dragged along by his wife, played by Jennifer Garner, who is determined to adopt this baby and be the adult that maybe he can't.
Michael Cera ("Superbad") plays Paulie Beeker, the father of the child who has an addiction to Tic Tacs and runs track-and-field for school, but in no way could he be considered a jock. His long, boney body is hardly manly as you see him running in his tiny yellow shorts. The idea that Beeker could even get a girl to sleep with him is an idea hard to fathom. He's a good kid, the kind who'd let you cheat off his paper in science class, or who'll sit and talk to you whenever you want to unload, or who'll sing you a silly song, the kind, you fall in love with.
And, that's what you do in this movie. With J. K. Simmons ("Spider-Man 3" and "The Closer") and Allison Janney ("Hairspray" and "The West Wing") rounding out the cast, you fall in love with these people, this family and their circle. Even the songs on the soundtrack from The Moldy Peaches are picked for perfect hilarity.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and language
Running Time: 1hr. 32 mins.