We've all done it. We've had that little moment where we think we're clever. We will jot down a poem, a short story or maybe even direct a super poignant student film and try to amaze everyone with our talents. After blowing smoke up our own butts for a while, most of us come back to earth fairly easily. Sometimes, we'll look back on these moments years later and say, "Ah. My youth. How foolish I was back then.." and enjoy a bit of nostalgia. Juno is what happens when that moment festers long enough to make it to the big screen.
In the first line of the movie, the titular Juno claims that it all started with a chair. I'm thinking it really started with a very pretentious writer named Brook Busey-Hunt (a woman who refers to herself as "Diablo Cody" and wrote a memoir when she was only 24, if you want an idea of just how pretentious she is) saying to herself, "Tee hee! What a neat idea I've just had! A movie that ends with the same thing it begins with! I'm a genius!" This is pretty much the feeling I got throughout the film; a movie constantly in awe of itself. A movie THINKING it's clever instead of actually making an honest attempt to BE clever. And, as with many films these days, it's designed to be College Kid Quote Fodder. As such, Juno has received much critical acclaim, and yet another bad example of how to make a movie is made. An example that will be copied and recycled to the point of obscenity. If you need proof, look no further than Juno itself, which feels largely derivative of films such as Napoleon Dynamite.
It's hard for me to point out anything good about this flick, as nearly every moment of it is so overflowing with arrogance and self indulgence that the finer details are scarcely visible. There were a few moments here and there that made me sort've laugh. Not an audible "ha-ha" laugh. Just that little inner laugh where you blow air through your nose once. Most of the dialog is very gimmicky and focuses on making young hipsters feel cool because they have knowledge of semi-current popular culture and the popular culture of yesteryear. Nearly every line is like something out of an episode of Robot Chicken, Venture Brothers or Family Guy, and the young, ignorant, "edgy" 20-somethings who are lauding this film as a masterpiece gorge themselves on that sort of thing. The "THUNDERCATS ARE GO!" line alone is going to ensure that Juno will be recorded in the annals of history amongst those who wear "Vote for Pedro" t-shirts and grown women who still wear those annoying, multi-colored striped socks with all the toes. And there are lot of you. I see you at the mall hanging out in front of HotTopic all the time. And man, Sweeny Todd and Juno at the same time? You guys must be having a liturgy.
See? I just did it right there. I was being a snide little jerk who thinks he's funny. But the difference here is that this is just a review soon to be flamed and forgotten, whereas Juno is currently ranked as the 129th greatest movie of all time at IMDb. That might not sound like a big deal, but bare in mind that this puts it above such films as The Gladiator, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Life of Brian, The Princess Bride.. and, well, I don't even want to continue this list. It's too depressing.
The film isn't a total loss. There are some decent performances, at the very least. Most notably, we have Juno's parents, played by J.K. Simmons, who many will remember as Jamison from the Spiderman trilogy, and the West Wing's Allison Janney. Their characters were funny, sincere, and had the only worthwhile lines in the film. The would-be parents of Juno's unborn child, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, are also played fairly well (though Garner definitely feels more than a bit out of place). The problem is that as convincing and adorable as these characters are, they're peripheral characters with very little to offer. As a matter of fact, the only character in this film who doesn't feel peripheral is Juno herself, played by Ellen Page. Page's performance is a tough one for me to slam because I can't quite tell if she's just wooden or if she's struggling with the awful, novelty dialog Brook Busey-Hunt wrote for her. The other characters aren't so much characters as they are caricatures, and also feel largely peripheral and derivative, even Juno's key love interest in the film.
In the end, Juno is just another film to provide young adults something to quote in front of their friends so they sound funny. But because the young people of this generation are so pertinacious and precious, Juno is adored by them and will probably go down in history as a masterpiece along with similar College Kid Quote Fodder movies like 300, Borat and Napoleon Dynamite. I was recommended this movie by a friend, and I was somewhat excited to see it after seeing all the raving in its wake. I won't say for certain that you should or shouldn't see this film. If you think shows like the Venture Brothers or Family Guy are the zenith of comic genius, you will love this movie, and by all means, go see it. If you're a bit less juvenile and have a taste for real comedy like the works of Woody Allen or Mel Brooks, Juno might leave you pretty confused and $8 bucks poorer to boot. Go see Walk Hard instead, while you still can. You'll at least get a good laugh, which is what comedy aims for, and something Juno fails at miserably.
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