Teen pregnancy is a laughing matter

By Jordyn Marcellus

The modern comedy movie is based on finding the cheap outrageous gag and then running it right into the ground. This trend started with the infamous Farrelly Brothers movie There’s Something About Mary when Ben Stiller discovered the use of semen as hair gel. It further escalated with the infamous pastry-loving scene in American Pie and finally culminated in the painful and voyeuristic waxing scene in the 40 Year Old Virgin.

What makes Juno so different and so absolutely refreshing in the stagnant and fetid swamp of gag-inducing comedies is that it doesn’t make an effort to get the goofy, stupid, easy laughs. Instead, the film strives to develop its characters and tell a story about both teenage and adult confusion over life and the enormity of having a child. Thankfully the movie doesn’t try to get too heavy and caught up in itself, instead offering up a steaming load of comedy to help the story go down sweetly.

In the opening moments of the film, we see Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) finally admiting to her budding pregnancy–after drinking a load of Sunny D for her third pregnancy test in a day. Juno does the responsible thing any teenager would do: sheepishly admitting her pregnancy to the father of her child, überdork Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) and professing that she’ll “take care of it.” One short trip to the abortion clinic later, she decides to have the child and put it up for adoption. Juno suffers from the “Quirky Character” syndrome in film, but can easily be overlooked due to Page’s skillful handling of the character.

Along the wacky journey of pregnancy, Juno meets potential adopters Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). Vanessa is a power-yuppie who just wants a child and Mark is her sellout rocker-turned-commercial-jingle-writer husband who is still nervous about his marriage to Vanessa–let alone having a child. Vanessa, who wants a baby to complete her own little perfect existence, is the polar opposite of Juno. This creates a tension between Vanessa, Mark and Juno and ends up leading to one of the major plot points in the film. It’s skillfully handled for the most part, although one of the characters just peters out at the end of the film and isn’t heard from again, which doesn’t really leave any real resolution.

For a film that only cost $25 million to make, the screen is loaded with both up-and-coming stars and people who already are established on the small screen. Ellen Page, who won the 2006 BAFTA Best Actress award for Hard Candy, struts her comedy skills–a stark comparison to the role of dark, vengeful angel in Hard Candy. Page is wickedly entertaining on screen and she portrays Juno as a supremely funny and charismatic character. J.K. Simmons, most readily known for his work as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man films, is lovably crusty and snarky as Juno’s father. Simmons’ best moments in the film are his alternating, loving attempts to help his daughter followed by backhanded insults for laughs. Every one of these moments is very real and shows both the father’s unconditional love for his daughter and his annoyance at her incredibly stupid actions.

Of special note is Michael Cera’s performance in the film–as in Superbad, he portrays George Michael Bluth from Arrested Development yet again. Considering that Cera actually has some acting skill, it’d be nice if people would be willing to give him a shot at something other than the awkward-yet-ultimately-lovable dude. He does it admirably, as always, and even gets the girl this time!

Music plays a very important part throughout Juno. Expect all the teenagers who go to check out the film suddenly wearing Kimya Dawson and Moldy Peaches clothes, declaring their eternal love for the simple anti-folk tunes in the flick. The songs are used relatively skillfully throughout the film, and underscore the precious moments in Juno’s life. In the last scene, Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing the Moldy Peaches’ “Anyone Else But You” in one long take in the summer sun, delivering one of the ultimate love-it-or-loathe-it moments in cinema–some will adore it, some will want to kick the screenwriter in the jaw for its cloying sentimentality.

Juno is a rare treat: a well-made comedy that doesn’t try to be too over-the-top and zany in a year of dreckish comedies, dull political “thrillers” and depressingly boring blockbusters. What’s disappointing is that since it’s so poorly marketed, few people will see it. Jump at the chance to go and you will not be disappointed.

Juno opens wide Tue., Dec. 25. Check out thejunoverse.com for dates and to RSVP for free showings between now and then.

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