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"Juno"

Directed by Jason Reitman.
Written by Diablo Cody.
Starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  11/14/07

Folks--

I knew when I saw the trailer that "Juno" had potential, and after our free screening tonight downtown, I must say--this is some great stuff.

Director Jason Reitman, who gave us the so-so comedy "Thank You for Smoking" two years ago (it was maybe the most overrated comedy I saw in '05), shows more of the promise that came through in his debut film by deftly mixing big laughs from a great script with some solid drama later in the film.  "Juno" is all about Juno (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old kid who decides to have sex with her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera)...and, whammo, she gets pregnant, which is no big thrill for her dad (J.K. Simmons) and stepmom (Allison Janney) in their hometown somewhere in Minnesota.  After some deliberation, Juno makes an interesting decision: she won't have an abortion, but she won't keep the child...she wants to have a closed adoption and give the kid to two total strangers (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) because she wants the child to have a good home, and as a high schooler, Juno doesn't think she'll have the chops to raise a kid at her young age.

Like other teen comedies in the recent past (or, uh, "Superbad", which Cera also appeared in), "Juno" gets a lot of mileage by creating its own slang for the teen actors who appear in the film.  I can't even remember all of the funny bits that Juno, Paulie, and Juno's friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) throw out over the course of the film's running time, but trust me, teenagers and college kids the nation over will be quoting this movie by January non-stop.  Even though "Juno" is further evidence that Cera's range is exactly one note (he plays the same character here that he did in "Arrested Development" and in "Superbad"), if you can do one thing and do it well--geeky, awkward, gangly white kid whose comic timing is always a hair late, which makes him funnier--then keep doing it; I thought he was funny but as much as I love him, he's starting to feel familiar.  The real strength of "Juno"--besides Page, who was excellent in "Hard Candy" and is incredible in this film--is the supporting cast; Bateman and Garner make for a funny, yin & yang couple, and Simmons will get raves for his work in this film.

The speed of "Juno", for anyone like me who loves "Simpsons"-style rapid-fire humor, is fantastic; the story as it unfolds is also well done.  What I didn't like so much--the soundtrack, but even I would admit that while the music here isn't my style, it's somebody else's style for sure; the major plot development late in the film, which I just thought was weak; and, just a general sense that this was, for lack of a better phrase, a movie.  By this I mean that "Juno" at times feels like it was written, not that it is natural, be it lines that I could never imagine Juno's father saying, or lines that are just too perfect for the situation (even if they get a laugh).  You have to see the film to see what I mean, but I think that I felt this a few times throughout the film.

This film doesn't come out until December, but you need to check it out whenever it hits.  Good stuff!

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09