Bright and energetic, Juno comes across much like its title character, evinced with zest by petite Ellen Page (Hard Candy).
The issues of unwanted pregnancy and adoption connect to earlier diverse, though appealing films from this year, Knocked Up and Waitress. It may take even more positive word-of-mouth than either of these successes to drum up decent theatrical returns.
The dialogue in this gratifying film by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) has a crackling wryness to it that always helps things from getting too cloying.
Page is Juno MacGuff, a whip-smart 16-year-old who decides to have sex with preppy Paulie (Michael Cera, very good as a similarly confused teen in the raunchy Superbad).
After Juno understands she's with child, adoption becomes the viable option. Her father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Alison Janney) are very understanding, just like her closest friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby).
The ideal couple for Juno looking to start a family are Vanessa (Jennfer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman). Yet, it may be a little complex for them as their marriage is a lot of give and take to say the least. That puts Juno and Paulie in a bit of a compromising situation.
Reitman nicely spices the mood of a picture creatively designed and filled with melodic alternative music. The characters are fashioned in a very pleasing well-rounded way that makes each quite personable. They often seem so sensible in a way that they've been briefed by someone of the ilk of a Dr. Phil. Yet, the lightness of the proceedings still doesn't camoflage the issues just beneath the surface.
So, if the script is so cuttingly funny and perhaps precious and overdone, one laughs as the cast excels, led by a quick-witted Page who essays much maturity in a part ripe with layers of emotions. Garner and Bateman, seen to lesser effect in the jingoistic actioner The Kingdom, are better here as the emotional, but likeable couple who may be up this life-changing experience. Even better underneath Page are Simmons and Janney who are colorful and quite humorous on their own terms.
Juno veers to bite off too much to need a reality check, but the way humor and insight meet leaves one understanding more than how the precocious protagonist got her name. She definitely knows when to put Moses in the conversation, and Reitman lets all the foibles and feelings resonate, none more engaging and heartfelt than the way Juno and Paulie relate to one another.