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JUNO
Blu-ray

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J. K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby
Director:  Jason Reitman
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  92 Minutes
Release Date:  April 15, 2008

“I don't really approve of you dating in your condition.  That's messed up.”

Film ***1/2

Is it just me, or are films of late becoming a bit more pro-life in their depictions of pregnancy?  Even in a raunchy comedy like Knocked Up, a woman with an unwanted pregnancy sees it through to the end.  In Juno, it’s a teenage girl’s turn.

Juno is the brain child of stripper-turned-blogger-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for her debut script, and deservedly so.  This film is the rare teen comedy that offers wit, intelligence, humanity and heart.  It will make you laugh out loud, but it will also move you.

Juno MacGuff (Oscar nominee Page) begins the movie with the realization that she’s become pregnant after a one-time experimental fling with her best bud Paulie Bleeker (Cera).  Her first instinct is to have an abortion, but the most unusual piece of information turns her off of the procedure, and she decides instead to have the child and allow a deserving couple to adopt it.

The couple is Mark and Vanessa Loring (Bateman and Garner), a well-to-do childless pair who seem ideal.  Well, mostly.  Mark is a musician who writes commercial jingles, and Vanessa is a bit obsessed with perfection.  After Juno meets them, the long laborious (no pun intended) journey begins. 

The film explores teen pregnancy and life in general with a fresh attitude.  Some have complained the kids’ dialogue is a little too clever, but I think Diablo Cody’s gift is for taking her characters and giving them the kind of smarts that most people respond positively to.  And the script never follows a sure path; avenues that seem obvious like Juno’s burgeoning friendship with Mark don’t unfold as you expect, and even the romance as Juno realizes her love for Paulie doesn’t follow convention.  I love when she tells him he’s cool without even trying.  “Actually, I try really hard,” he answers, with a tone of self-depreciation that will make you smile.

The movie, directed by Jason Reitman, is a wonderful, comedic character study with a superb cast.  I haven’t even mentioned how terrific the venerable J. K . Simmons and Allison Janney are as Juno’s father and stepmother.  Their stalwart support of their daughter’s decision and what she has to go through as a result is just one of the picture’s many winning ways.

Of course, most of the story rests on Ellen Page’s capable shoulders.  She brings Juno to life as the kind of character we instinctively respond to, no matter what our age or station in life.  Her Academy Award nomination was well deserved.

But that recognition ultimately went to Diablo Cody, scoring the movie’s only win on Oscar night.  She came a long way with this screenplay, and one can only imagine what her future endeavors will bring us.

Video ***1/2

Blu-ray definitely enhances the viewing experience, particularly indoors, where there are details galore in Juno's bedroom that I never picked out before (even though some are referenced in the commentary).  The added sharpness makes for a brighter, more colorful and crisper series of images, though the deliberate warmth of the colors seem a little strong from time to time.  Overall, proof that Blu-ray can make even a simply structured comedy look better than ever.

Audio ***

The sounds are a little clearer thanks to DTS HD audio.  Spoken words are clean and clear, and dynamic range, what's called for, is a little more formidable.  Blu-ray audio capabilities did not, however, make me like the songs on the soundtrack any better...sorry.

Features ****

There is a terrific commentary track from Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody that’s an informative and entertaining listen.  Reitman is even secure enough to point out his own gaffes along the way.  There are also four production featurettes, 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary, screen tests, a gag reel, a gag take, a cast and crew jam (there were a lot of guitars in the film), trailers, and a Fox “Inside Look”.

Summary:

Juno was indeed one of the best films of last year, and intriguingly enough, the only Best Picture nominee with an upbeat ending.  It’s the perfect remedy for the Cineplex blues, especially in the comfort of your own home.

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