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Cast and script make Juno one of the best of 2007

T. Edward Andrews | Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Whether talking on her hamburger phone, slurping down massive blue slurpees or puking them back up in her stepmom’s favorite pottery, free-wheeling Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) finds herself faced with the same problems as any other high-school junior stuck in suburban America: homework, gossiping girls and battling boredom.

However, after an in-chair sexual encounter with then-boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), Juno finds herself immersed in a very adult situation, courtesy of a copious amount of Sunny Delite and the unanticipated results of a pregnancy test: She’s expecting.

“Juno” follows its titular character as she navigates the nine months and several seasons of her pregnancy, dealing with boy troubles, the mean stares of high school mean girls and finding a way to secure a future for her unborn child.

Rookie of the year and stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody excels in her debut effort, providing “Juno’s” talented and deep cast with a lively, snappy script that gives every actor in it memorable lines and good material.

Like Ms. Cody herself, in Juno she has created a larger-than-life dynamo with a name to match. As Juno says while her mounting pregnancy causes her waistline to balloon, “I’m a planet.” Everything in the film revolves around her, and Ellen Page delivers the goods as a sarcastic small-town girl with a big mouth. Although her quips and quirks project Juno’s carefree attitude, Page manages to convey an innocence and sensitivity even as Juno compensates for the difficulty of her pregnancy with her over-the-top antics. She remains every bit a teenager stuck in a tough situation. At times cynical, crass but always precocious, Juno MacGuff doesn’t take guff from anyone, but she does need the support of her friends and family.

Michael Cera continues to amuse audiences and make them laugh with his awkward on-screen antics as Juno’s boyfriend Paulie Bleeker, a dedicated cross-country runner with a penchant for orange Tic Tacs and a knack for impregnating his girlfriend. Cera also manages to show some skin onscreen in sporting a pair of rather revealing short shorts to better display his pasty runner’s thighs.

Rounding out the cast are comedy staples Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner as Mark and Vanessa Loring, the yuppie couple that wants to adopt Juno’s child. Garner surprises as Vanessa, delivering a convincing and earnest performance as a wannabe mommy. For his part, Bateman does well in a more serious role than his typical comedic fare.

Actor J.K. Simmons also performs well in a supporting role as Mac MacGuff, Juno’s gruff, blue-collar dad who dotes on his daughter and also may have given her that mouth of hers. During a meet-and-greet with Mark and Vanessa Loring, the would-be adoptive parents of Juno’s unborn child, Juno replies that she would like a Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey. Seeing the shocked expression on Vanessa’s face, Mac MacGuff quickly explains, “Junebug has a wonderful sense of humor. Just one of her many genetic gifts.”

Much like last summer’s blockbuster hit “Knocked Up,” “Juno” takes the serious subject of pregnancy and manages to have fun with it while acknowledging the gravity of the situation.

Diablo Cody’s humorous but heartfelt screenplay can’t help but succeed in the hands of a talented cast. With its mix of laughs, romantic comedy and touching moments, “Juno” stands out as one of the best movies of 2007.