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Juno (2007)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/15/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/3/2008

It's the age-old question which has plagued mankind since the dawn of time: What makes something cool? Is something cool because everyone likes it? Or is it cool when only a few people like it? More importantly, can something try to be cool, and in some cases, declare itself cool, or is something only cool when another party declares it cool? These questions came to mind while watching the indy hit Juno. This is a small, intimate movie, but the dialogue and pop-cultural references are crying out to be cool. Does this hurt or help the film?

The titular character in Juno (Ellen Page) is a somewhat obtuse teenaged girl who, at the beginning of the film, discovers that she is pregnant. This is the result of one encounter with her friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Juno considers getting an abortion, but then decides that she wants to give the baby up for adoption. She discusses this idea with her parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney), and they support her. Juno finds a young couple, Mark & Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), who want her child and they come to an agreement. As Juno goes through the trimesters, she must deal with the changes in her body, the reactions of her peers, and her relationship with Paulie. How can this young woman make it through all of this pressure?

To me, Juno was like two films in one. The problem is that I only liked one of the movies. On the one hand, Juno is an intelligent , thought provoking indy drama. Teen pregnancy is typically handled in either an "After School Special" fashion or in the manner of a LifeTime movie. Here, we get a more mature and calculated view of the subject. Juno's reaction to being pregnant is realistic, but instead of getting overly dramatic, the film has her clearly weigh her options. She considers abortion, and then opts for adoption. The film doesn't get heavy-handed in this section. There is no crisis of faith -- the idea of the abortion simply scares Juno and she decides to try something else. As with Thank You for Smoking, director Jason Reitman shows that he's able to take very heated topics and portray them in a non-partisan manner. Following her decision to let Mark and Vanessa have the baby, Juno then must deal with the everyday stressors which come with being pregnant while attempting to maintain a normal teenage life.

That Juno could have easily been a small, quiet movie which would have told an interesting story with an original point of view. But, then the other Juno had to step in. Diablo Cody has become a cause-celebre for her Oscar-winning script, and when one looks at the story alone, it's easy to see why. Juno's journey is an interesting one, and there are some nice twists with the other characters in the film which aren't easy to see coming. But then, we have the dialogue. You've probably heard the much-quoted "Honest to blog.", or seen the Saturday Night Live skit where two guys who are trying to help their grandfather understand today's movies admit that they don't know what the characters are talking about. Yes, Cody has reached deep into the well of teen-speak and created conversations and phrases which have never happened in real life. Don't get me wrong, there are some clever lines here, but the moment when Juno yells "Thundercats are go!" as her water breaks had me rolling my eyes. There is also a lot of name-dropping of uber-hip bands and movies here, which will no doubt confound the uninitiated and unnerve those who know better. Dario Argento mentioned in an Oscar winning film? What is the world coming to?

The sci-fi dialogue aside, I liked Juno more than I'd expected to. The story is engaging and the supporting characters are quirky, but in a realistic way. I must agree with those who have knocked the film for portraying teenage pregnancy in a light which makes it seem easy to overcome. Not everyone has the resources and support which helps Juno get through her ordeal. Also, unlike everyone else on the planet, I'm not sold on Ellen Page. She seems to force her dialogue and she reminds me of Julia Stiles or Leelee Sobieski, and you see where their careers have gone. In addition, I have to question all of those who see Juno as a comedy. It's got some funny moments, but it certain falls closer to drama. While I don't think that it deserved a best picture nod over Gone Baby Gone, Juno is worth seeing for fans of slight odd indy films.

Juno swells with child on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For the purposes of this review, I watched one of Fox's infamous screener discs, and it did show some slight problems. The image was fairly sharp and clear, but there was some fine grain on the picture. Pixellation was present at times, usually during sudden camera moves or when a character crossed the screen. The colors were good, but overall, the picture looked very flat. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The in-movie music (which, for the record, I hated) sounds fine. There are some subtle stereo and surround effects here, but most of the audio comes from the center channel.

The Juno DVD has several bonus features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. This is both a fun and entertaining commentary, as the two speak at length throughout the film. They give us information about the actors, the locations, and how the film was made, while they also joke about the film and the fun of shooting some of the more absurd scenes. The DVD contains 11 DELETED SCENES which run about 20 minutes and can be viewed with commentary by Reitman and Cody. Many of these are simply extended versions of existing scenes from the film. There are a few interesting moments here, including an open-mic performance by Juno and an added epilogue. There's also a moment with Mark and Vanessa which would have been a spoiler in the movie. This is followed by a 5-minute GAG REEL, and a 2-minute GAG TAKE, which shows Reitman harrassing Rainn Wilson. The "Crew Music Video" (3 minutes) is a montage of cast and crew members performing and dancing in front of a silver curtain. We get "Screen Tests" (22 minutes) with Page, Cera, Olivia Thirlby, Simmons, and some woman who isn't Allison Janney. "Way Beyond "Our" Maturity Level: Juno-Leah-Bleeker" (9 minutes) has Page, Cera, and Thirlby comment on their characters, while Reitman and Cody talk about how the actors brought the characters to life. "Diablo Cody is Totally Boss" (8 minutes) examines how the script was developed and Reitman and the actors comment on the writing and the language. In "Jason Reitman for Shizz" (8 minutes), we learn how Reitman got involved and the actors and producers discuss how the director works. "Honest to Blog!: Creating Juno" (13 minutes) is a fairly generic "making of" which contains some footage which is found elsewhere on the disc. We do get a nice dialogue with Cody and Reitman. "Fox Movie Channel Presents World Premiere: Juno" (5 minutes) has footage of the L.A. premiere of the film, featuring comments from the stars. "Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session: Juno" (8 minutes) examines the casting process for the film, with comments from the casting directors.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Juno to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image here looks very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably the rich reds and yellows. The picture is highly detailed and shows a very nice depth in certain scenes. The image is stable, showing no artifacting or video noise. The disc has a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 1.5 Mbps. The dialogue is sharp and clear here, and there is no hissing. The in-movie music sounds very good and the reproduction of it is crystal clear. The stereo effects are good, and there are some nicely placed surround effects, but we don't get much in the way of bass response. This isn't the disc you'll use to show off your system, but it's a solid transfer.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are identical to those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long