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20th Century Fox presents
Juno (2007)

"I don't really know what kind of girl I am."
- Juno (Ellen Page)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: April 14, 2008

Stars: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons
Director: Jason Reitman

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 01h:35m:59s
Release Date: April 15, 2008
UPC: 024543515944
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B-B B

DVD Review

The one-sentence pitch of Juno makes it sound like a mediocre made-for-cable movie, at very best: teenage girl finds herself in the family way, and learns a little somethin' about life. So it's a tribute to screenwriter Diablo Cody, director Jason Reitman, and an outstanding cast that they've made a film that's really genuinely funny and touching, in large measure because it's got no interest in fulminating about either the sanctity of life or the right to choose, or about anything else, really—it's a movie interested only in telling the story of its lead character, and it's a role that's etched with extraordinary specificity and good humor. It's also one of the very best portraits you'll see of late adolescence—it's a sharp portrayal of trudging through high school while sorting through the shards of adult dilemmas, and the movie never condescends to nor romanticizes its central characters.

Ellen Page stars as the improbably named Juno MacGuff, and she's already knocked up when we meet her, swilling Sunny Delight and in denial about the repeated positives she's generating from the off-the-shelf pregnancy tests. On some level the movie scales its biggest obstacle early on—after the initial freakout, Juno schedules an appointment for an abortion at the local clinic, but she just can't go through with it, and not because of any sort of societal or familial moral code. She just can't do it. So she's got a big old problem on her hands when she decides to take the baby to term, and she and her best pal hunt up some prospective adoptive parents for the little thing in the Pennysaver.

Cody's script maybe tries a little too hard early on—it's almost like she's insecure about her own wit (she shouldn't be), and is going to prove it to us, dammit, whether you like it or not. But she and the movie settle in pretty quickly, and give us some terrifically etched characters. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are the overly eager infertile couple, and it's clear from the jump that she's been painting the dream nursery in her head for years, and he's been going along, figuring he'd be able to play out the string. J. K. Simmons gets to do the sort of multidimensional work that's been the exception rather than the rule for him as Juno's father, and he's both gruff and tender, a little bit embarrassed and awkward and ashamed but always a loving father; and Allison Janney as his wife, Juno's stepmother, has just the right balance of intimacy and distance with the pregnant teenager in her house who isn't quite family.

But it's Page who's asked to carry so much of the movie, and she's hugely up to the task, delivering a great and nuanced performance. It's an incredibly specifically drawn character, full of tartness and innocence, bravery and good humor—she's portrayed with such love that you want to support her no matter what she does. It's also what sets the movie off balance a little bit—Michael Cera is game and gangly as the kid on the track team who's the father of the baby, and though Juno moons over him, the movie doesn't quite make the sale that Bleeker is the one. But what's most bracing is how casually but knowingly the movie deals with what could be trite, overdone scenes—there's no screaming or wailing or gnashing of teeth over the pregnancy, nor a huge deal made out of the considerable class differences between Juno's working-class family and the upscale surroundings of the potential adoptive parents. And there's something undeniably zeitgeisty about the whole movie—it's smart about adolescence but not in an exclusionary way, so those of us far beyond the demographic are welcome to jump right in as well, the water's fine.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: dOc was provided only with a screener disc for review purposes; the transfer here could use a little bit of tweaking, as the colors are occasionally off (flesh tones particularly), but that may well be corrected in the final product.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio transfer is unexceptional; the 5.1 track is pretty well balanced, though occasionally some of the ambient noise can make swatches of the dialogue tough to pick up.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring 27 Dresses, The Savages, Charlie Bartlett, Lars and the Real Girl, Bonneville, Juno soundtrack
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
8 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody
Packaging: Unknown
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The writer and director provide a jovial commentary track, much of which is about recalling memories from the set—Reitman can get all techie from time to time, and Cody is happy to deflate him. It's a bit too much of a mutual admiration society, but it's a good amiable listen. The pair also provides optional commentary for a package (22m:21s) of eleven deleted scenes—most of them are from early on in the story and a good many feel overly expository, but the cutting may explain why Bleeker isn't as strong a character as he might be. The comments are generally about why each bit here was deemed extraneous.

A gag reel (5m:11s) features many takes of actors flubbing lines, and a gag take (1m:56s) is of Reitman and one of his cast in a mock onset blowup. Air guitars are out in force for a cast and crew jam (3m:12s)—Bateman's character favors vintage guitars, and everyone takes a turn at the axe. And a collection (22m:32s) of screen tests shows the lead performances in their infancy—politely if somewhat disappointingly, there's no footage of anyone who didn't make the cast.

And a group of featurettes are largely by the numbers. Way Beyond "Our" Maturity Level (8m:57s) focuses on Page, Cera, and the other younger lead actors; Diablo Cody is Totally Boss (8m:35s) gives the Hollywood fairy tale of the stripper turned blogger turned screenwriter, with paeans to her genius from Reitman, the film's producers, and the cast. Jason Reitman for Shizz (8m:07s) is a look at the director, and Honest to Blog! Creating Juno (13m:01s) goes over some of the same territory. Finally, what's billed on the main menu as Inside Look is a quick peek at What Happens in Vegas, an upcoming Cameron Diaz/Ashton Kutcher project that one hopes is funnier than its trailer.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

The trappings for this story bring with them all sorts of perils—of things that are clichéd, or maudlin, or both—but Juno successfully navigates around all of them, and tells a story that's smart and sweet and funny and sharp. It may be too late to shut out all the buzz about the movie and you won't want to set your expectations too high, but it really is a carefully told and funny story. The ample DVD extras make this one easy to recommend.

 


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