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Vol. LXI, No. 50
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

IT LOOKS LIKE I’VE FOUND THE PERFECT PARENTS: Unwed teenager Juno (Ellen Page, right) has settled on the happily married couple Vanessa (Jennifer Garner, left) and Mark (Jason Bateman) Loring to raise her yet to be born baby after interviewing and eliminating other potential parents who responded to her newspaper ad describing a baby that would soon be available for adoption.

Juno: Pregnant Teen Ponders Options in Offbeat Teen Film

Kam Williams

Sixteen-year-old Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) is a precocious teenager who ends up regretting her casual sexual dalliance with fellow teenager Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Unluckily, she becomes pregnant, when all she wanted was to satisfy her curiosity.

Juno has no interest in keeping the baby and so she turns to her best friend, Leah (Olivia Thirlby), to help her examine all of her options. She rejects the idea of having an abortion, but she doesn’t want to hand over her offspring to an orphanage without knowing more information about how, and by whom, the baby will be raised.

She finally decides to place an ad in the newspaper offering her child for adoption so that she can audition the potential parents before the baby’s birth. She ends up choosing Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) Loring, a happily married couple who look like they will be the perfect parents for her as yet unborn baby.

The Lorings are eager to start a family but have been unable to conceive because of Vanessa’s infertility. Vanessa’s maternal urge conveniently dovetails with Juno’s desire to place her baby in an ideal suburban setting.

This is the novel point of departure of Juno, a quirky coming-of-age film reminiscent of Ghost World, another offbeat adventure about a quick-witted female smart aleck with a blasé attitude. Set against the jarring candy-colored Pee Wee Herman-style backdrops, the production has the same surreal feeling that worked so well in Garden State.

Juno was directed by Jason Reitman, whose Thank You for Smoking was the number one pick on this reviewer’s Top Ten List for 2006. The film features the same sort of sophisticated dialogue which marked both Ghost World and Thank You for Smoking. The difference is that this script fails to develop its characters, but simply tends to go for the joke at all costs, thereby forcing pithy remarks into the mouth of a character even if the quip is inappropriate for that personality.

The upshot is a clever comedy that’s laced with lots of sardonic humor but that can’t quite convince you to take its plot seriously. As a consequence, the production spoils the edginess of some surprising developments — such as the sexual tension that develops between Juno and Mark — by looking for laughs at the expense of substance.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity, premarital sexuality, and mature themes. Running time: 92 minutes. Studio: Fox Searchlight.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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