(2007) *** Pg-13
96 min. Fox Searchlight Pictures. Director: Jason Reitman. Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Olivia Thirlby, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman.

One frequent criticism of certain screenwriters is to point out that their characters all sound the same. To some, this phenomenon is a terrible sin; to others, it's simply a matter of style. Though Diablo Cody's not quite in a league with David Mamet or Aaron Sorkin, the newcomer's distinctive style was enough to score her the Best Screenplay Oscar for Juno. The tale of suburban crisis may not be realistic, but it blessedly carries enough novel touches to stand apart from the pack and endure as a popular favorite.

Speaking of good carriage, Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) is a teenage girl who discovers that she's pregnant in the film's first post-credits scene. "This ain't no Etch-A-Sketch," says the corner market clerk (guest star Rainn Wilson). "This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet" (this, despite Juno's attempted shusher "Silencio, old man"). After this scene full of verbal annoyances, Cody's precious dialogue calms down a bit —"Honest to blog?" and "Thundercats are go!" nothwithstanding—as Juno swiftly decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. She strikes up a relationship with a yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as Mark and Vanessa Loring) eager for the "sweet, screaming, pooping life" Juno offers them, but each discovers more than he or she bargained for in the deal.

Though she's been embraced by women of all ages hungry—nay, starving—for a female character who combines strength, personality, and attractiveness, the girl with the hamburger phone is not necessarily an easy-to-love character. A nutty Slurpee-holic whose only seeming mode of discourse is irony, Juno has a blinding self-obsession that threatens her relationships with the guitar-strumming baby papa (Michael Cera) and her sardonic but protective stepmom (Alison Janney), if not her caring dad (J.K. Simmons) and loyal best bud (Olivia Thirlby). Eventually, Juno looks beyond her bulging stomach to understand the problems of others; though the solutions Juno offers are secondarily self-serving, at least the recipients get what they need.

Juno is at its best when dealing with a plausible fight that develops between the Lorings. Though the Martha Stewart-bred perfection of Vanessa verges on cliche, Garner does her best screen work yet, elicting painful empathy from the audience. Bateman is her equal in a subtler role, one that requires him to see in Juno everything he's missing in his marriage. Though their scenes are less delicate and more rigged for your pleasure, Janney and Simmons get flavorful moments for themselves: hers touchingly defending her screwed-up stepchild from a snotty tech, and his offering oblivious, fatherly romantic advice.

Page hits the right note for Juno's acid wit, by way of Cody's sharp pen and mirrored in songs by Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches. Though it might've made more sense to have a female director, as well, Jason Reitman confidently handles Cody's material; clearly, the son of Ivan Reitman can relate to the Lorings' spotless, cookie-cut home and Cody's raised-on-pop-culture references (seriously, is any sixteen-year-old in 2007 likely to make a Soupy Sales reference?). The whole package ultimately suggests Gilmore Girls gone wild, its crazy-ass momentum turning out to make for an entertaining night at the movies.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 4/15/2008

Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment

20th Century Fox's fully-loaded Blu-Ray edition (mirrored on two-disc DVD) is a bundle of joy. The film gets a sturdy transfer (occasionally straining when the colors bloom brightest) that does a good job of approximating the film's theatrical apppearance while bringing home a perfect DTS-HD "lossless" 5.1 Surround soundtrack. An enthusiastic commentary by director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody covers most of the bases, including Cody's inspirations, Reitman's detailed directorial insights, recollections of the production and cast, and troubleshooting the rating, among other topics.

Eleven "Deleted Scenes" (20:24 with a "Play All" option and optional commentary with Reitman and Cody) add to, alternate with, or extend the film's scenes: "Mrs. Rancik" (2:14), "Juno Hitchhikes" (:48), "Intro to Family" (1:01), "Carry Chair to Bleeks; Sit in Car Drinking" (1:46), "Café Triste" (2:10), "Bleeker's Bedroom with Juno" (4:55), "Lorings in Bathroom" (1:04), "Mark Plays Guitar" (:48), "Juno Plays Guitar" (1:36), "Montage" (3:11), and "Mark's Loft" (:45). Aside from providing an insight into the bigger picture of the Oscar-winning film, the scenes pull their weight as little comic gems worth watching. The gift of this special edition keeps on giving with a "Gag Reel" (5:11); "Gag Take" (1:57), a faux argument between Reitman and Rainn Wilson; "Crew Music Video (3:12); and "Screen Tests" (22:35) with Page, Cera, Thirlby and Simmons.

Four featurettes provide cast and crew perceptions of the film's story and making: "Way Beyond 'Our' Maturity Level: Juno-Leah-Bleeker" (8:59) finds Cody, Reitman, Ellen Page, Olivia Thirlby, and Michael Cera discussing the teen characters; "Diablo Cody is Totally Boss" (8:35) adds comments by J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, producer Mason Novick, and executive producer Daniel Dubiecki; "Jason Reitman for Shizz" (8:08) gathers additional participants Jason Bateman, producers Lianne Halfon & Russell Smith, and executive producer Nathan Kahane; and "Honest to Blog!: Creating Juno (13:01) has Reitman interviewing Cody, with additional comments from the cast interspersed.

For us Blu-Ray junkies, Fox trots out two brief but worthy exclusives: "Fox Movie Channel Presents World Premiere: Juno" (5:26)—with host Tava Smiley doing red-carpet interviews with Reitman, Page, Simmons, Janney, Garner, producer John Malkovich, and Fox co-chairman Jim Gianopulos—and "Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session: Juno" (7:51), a promo piece with unique talking-head clips by Reitman, Cody, Page, Cera, Bateman, Garner, Dubiecki, and casting director Mindy Marin. When you're running low on "behavioral meds," here's one with replay value to pull off the shelf.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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