"This is one doodle that can't be undid"
Last night the wife and I saw "Juno." I sat through the first half-hour or so of the film thinking it was far too clever for its own good, with all the one-liners getting in the way of the story. And where were all the hip, witty girls who wanted to have sex with awkward boys when I was in high school?
But the film eventually found its rhythm, in large part thanks to a great ensemble cast led by Oscar nominee Ellen Page. Michael Cera was a delight in "Arrested Development" and his off-beat delivery and timing served him well here. J.K. Simmons (aka J.Jonah Jamison) and Allison Janey turned in warm, finely tuned performances as Juno's father and stepmother.
"Juno" invites comparisons to "Little Miss Sunshine", simply because the latter was last year's quirky, feel-good independent film that garnered major critical acclaim and several Oscar nominations. But "Juno", to me, is the superior film. As my wife noted, the cast of "Little Miss Sunshine" tried so hard to portray their characters' eccentricities that they lapsed into caricature. The characters in "Juno" seemed more genuine, despite the glibness that made unwanted teenage pregnancy out to be an inexhaustible source of shtick.
The film stumbled, however, when it came to Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), the couple who planned to adopt Juno's baby. Bateman got off some great lines (his timing and deadpan delivery are spot-on, which is probably why he clicked so well with Cera in "Arrested Development") and Garner gave a restrained and believable performance as a woman desperate to have a child. Still, they were stuck with two-dimensional characters, and the filmmakers never took the time to develop their relationship. Given the outcome of the film, that was a significant flaw -- though certainly not a fatal one.