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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | December 8, 2007

We’ve endured a long stretch of formulaic dribble that’s depicted folks from 13-20 as loud, obnoxious, cruel, shallow, and superficial, which made us long for the days of John Hughes, a man who earnestly unraveled the teenage figure of his decade, and gave us some true classics that continue to connect to teens in the age of iPods and the internet. “Juno” seems to aspire to carry on that formula as one of the many of the new wave of teen dramedies that changes the mold, and is a surefire classic I intend to watch again.

“Juno” is gladly one of the many new titles that have displayed teenage angst as something more important than the high school dance, and the head cheerleader. It’s a film about unique individuals facing realistic problems, and it’s probably one of the best of 2007. Juno is a character very much in the tradition of people like Daria, or Andie Walsh; she’s too smart for her own good and really never fits in. When we first meet her, she admires a ragged old chair in a deserted field while chugging on a gallon of Sunny D, and we’re immediately drawn into her world.

She’s comfortable in her skin, has no goal beyond just living everyday as she can, and also prefers to think of herself as a cut above her own kind. Incidentally, she finds herself pregnant after a night of sex with her quasi-beau as a result of boredom and attraction, and is faced with a heavy burden. “Juno” could have taken so many directions; a big screen Lifetime movie, a PSA, a dramedy about parenthood, a hidden pro-life message, but really it’s about a girl who makes a decision that brings her more than a simple birth and pass.

After three pregnancy tests she finally admits she’s pregnant and alerts her ex Bleeker (Michael Cera who is funny but sadly underused) about it. Shocking enough he’s supportive, accepting, and insists on helping to make a decision about the baby. Juno is also embraced by her parents who leave it up to her to make up the baby’s fate. After a failed attempt at abortion, Juno decides to put her child up for adoption, which she decides will go to a “yuppy couple,” and she finds Mark and Vanessa.

Diablo Cody is a writer I definitely want to see more from. She paints every character with heavy nuance and without cliché or quirks that would sacrifice the dignity of the individual. It’s a heavy task but Cody succeeds in making me invest in every character on the screen, and then she completely turns the plot on its head when Juno pretty much has the couple she’s giving the baby to pegged, until she insinuates herself into their lives and finds that first impressions aren’t always an indicator of someone. Continuing the brunt of the talent at hand, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner give respective stellar performances as the potential parents who both communicate with Juno on a unique wavelength which allows her a different perspective on her impending adult hood.

Bateman is given all the best dialogue and delivers his hilarious one-liners and odd observations with his usual brilliant deadpan, along with Garner who gives the finest performance of her career. Mostly on display though is Ms. Page who has yet to disappoint me, adding a distinct charm and independence to Juno, and also saves some clunky one-liners at times; Juno is going to be an amazing woman one day, but we know something that she doesn’t: she’s still just a child, and has a lot to learn about life. Page is a heavy actress and takes the character of Juno out of inadvertent character pigeonholes and keeps her always unpredictable in manner and attitude, and is even a convincing preggo.

“Juno” can be self-aware and smug, especially in the first twenty minutes, and the plot is too similar to “Immediate Family,” but Cody’s screenplay is rich and unique and dashes all expectations as soon as Mark and Vanessa are introduced into the fold. Page is given a forum to provide one of her best performances to date acting off some truly great actors who excel with the material including Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons. “Juno” is thankfully not a preachy sentimental sappy offering, it’s just a grounded, sweet, funny, and excellent dramedy about smart teenagers and the world they live in that doesn’t always make sense.

It’s just a breath of fresh air from the “High School Musical” and “Bratz” crap. I hope we see more of this ilk.

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