"Juno" is one of those movie projects that could have gone horribly awry in the wrong hands.
It's definitely tricky material (among other things, it deals with the consequences of teen pregnancy). One false note could have made it overly snarky and too cynical. Or it could have gone in the opposite direction and been cloyingly sweet and insincere.
Instead, "Juno" is filled with laugh-out-loud gags, witty dialogue and genuine emotion. The film is at least as warm as it is smart. And it's definitely a star-making vehicle for up-and-coming actress Ellen Page ("X-Men: The Last Stand").
Page plays the title character, Juno MacGuff, a smart-alecky, sharp-tongued teen who has discovered that she's pregnant after having a brief fling with her best friend, Paulie (Michael Cera, from "Superbad").
Faced with a difficult choice, Juno decides to put the baby up for adoption. An ad in a "penny-saver" paper leads her to the doorstep of Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), a yuppie couple unable to conceive.
Meanwhile, Juno's father and stepmother, Mac and Bren (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney), are making sure Juno takes care of herself and the baby. And they're also trying to prevent her from making any further "mistakes."
The film is director Jason Reitman's follow-up to the very smart and funny "Thank You For Smoking." He's working from a script by best-selling author Diablo Cody, and the film is filled with quippy dialogue you'll be quoting for quite some time.
Reitman has also assembled a cast that's uniformly excellent. Page makes us really care about the less-confident-than-she-appears Juno, while Garner continues to impress. (Her character's increasing marital strife with Bateman's immature Mark is very believable.)
And the always caustic Janney is hilarious in support. A scene in which her character dresses down a thoughtless, self-righteous ultrasound technician is worth the price of admission.
"Juno" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual language and references (slang terms and one use of the so-called, "R-rated" profanity), brief simulated sex and other sexual contact, brief drug references (medications and painkillers), brief hospital gore, and slurs based on sexual preference. Running time: 92 minutes.