Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 12/13/07 15:11:54

"A triumphant conclusion to the unplanned pregnancy trilogy."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Coming on the heels of a pair of entertaining fertility-based comedies like "Waitress" and "Knocked Up," "Juno" would seem redundant. But rookie screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking") still manage to find plenty of engaging ways to look at an age-old situation.

The title character (Ellen Page, "Hard Candy") is a 16-year-old girl who finds that her lone tryst with a cross-country runner named Paulie (Michael Cera from "Superbad") has left her searching for maternity clothes.

Juno tries to be as cavalier about her predicament as she can be. Even though she's decided not to raise the child, she labels herself a "cautionary whale." The wisecracks belie an almost paralyzing fear of her future.

Fortunately, a young and clearly loaded couple named Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) are eager to take the little bundle out of her terrified hands.

While the situation may seem simple, Juno discovers that the two have a troubled marriage. Mark longs to return to his days as a 90s alt-rocker, and Vanessa has been waiting for years to raise a child. As she gets closer to her due date, Juno learns that many of the adults in her world are as clueless as she feels.

Cody, who came to prominence by writing a memoir of her year working as a stripper, recalls that she read the script Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff wrote for "Ghost World," and that film's strengths are evident here. In addition to sharing that film's producers, Cody's script still has a beating heart to accompany the bile-filled dialogue.

Juno may love carrying around what she thinks are cool accessories, but in her soul, she's an unrepentant nerd who can't part with her hamburger-shaped phone. She also can't let go of her persistent attraction to Paulie, who could hardly be called a hipster. Page can also effortlessly switch from being caustic to sensitive, which makes the character more than sitcom cliché.

One of the refreshing things about "Juno" is that Cody doesn't depict the protagonist's father (J.K. Simmons, "Spider-Man") and stepmother (Allison Janney) as buffoons. The two are consistently affectionate and never less than supportive of their daughter even when she makes poor decisions. From listening to them, it's easy to see where Juno picked up her tongue and how there might be hope for her in the end.

Like a preponderance of films make these days, "Juno" was shot in Vancouver. Reitman, however, manages to do more than make the Canadian city pass for an American one. The trip from Juno's house to the Lorings is funny in itself because the endless parade of McMansions looks real regardless of whether you live in Charlotte or St. Louis.

I could have done without the "Napoleon Dynamite"-inspired titles, but "Juno" indicates that Cody's literary efforts may outlast her trendy blog if the writers strike doesn't end first.

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