DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | DVDizzy.com: New and Upcoming Release Schedule | Search This Site | Upcoming Cover Art | UltimateDisney.com

Juno DVD Review

Juno (2007) movie poster Juno

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2007 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jason Reitman / Writer: Diablo Cody

Cast: Ellen Page (Juno MacGuff), Michael Cera (Paulie Bleeker), Jennifer Garner (Vanessa Loring), Jason Bateman (Mark Loring), Allison Janney (Bren MacGuff), J.K. Simmons (Mac MacGuff), Olivia Thirlby (Leah), Eileen Pedde (Gerta Rauss), Rainn Wilson (Rollo), Daniel Clark (Steve Rendazo), Darla Vandenbossche (Carol Bleeker), Aman Johal (Vijay), Valerie Tian (Su-Chin), Emily Perkins (Punk Receptionist), Kaaren De Zilva (Ultrasound Technician)

Buy Juno from Amazon.com: Single-Disc DVD 2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition DVD Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy Special Edition

Unplanned pregnancy was big in the movies in 2007. First, there was Waitress, the little film that got deservedly good buzz. Then, Knocked Up was one of the biggest hits of the summer with its own hot reviews and massive gross-to-budget ratio. In December, Juno became the year's third birth-centered comedy to wow critics and woo audiences. While the film awards season's notoriously limited memory may have helped,
it was Juno that will probably go down as the most esteemed of the three, having garnered an abundance of honors (most notably, an Academy Award for original screenplay) and nominations (including Oscar consideration for Best Picture and Best Actress) in addition to one of the most remarkable box office runs in independent movie history.

Juno is the tale of Juno MacGuff (Oscar nominee Ellen Page), a sarcastic 16-year-old high school junior of suburban Minnesota, who learns at the film's start that she is now expecting a baby, the result of an encounter with her soft-spoken classmate Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera, Superbad). Juno's initial instinct is to quietly pursue an abortion. When she can't bring herself to do that, she decides -- at the suggestion of her supportive best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) -- to find a promising set of adoptive parents. After coming clean to her father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney), Juno schedules a meeting with Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark Loring (Jason Bateman), a seemingly ideal affluent young married couple that has been unable to conceive after five years of trying. Juno decides that the Lorings would offer a stable home for her forthcoming baby.

Wielding a bottle of Sunny D, 16-year-old Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) treads across an animated terrain as her first name (the movie's title) appears in the striking opening credits sequence. Juno's father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney) sit tensely as Juno prepares to give them the big news.

In terms of absolute plot, that's about all Juno gives us. Unlike Knocked Up, it doesn't set out to capture the various stages and hallmarks of pregnancy. The first Ultrasound is observed as are certain physical changes, but that's about it. It also doesn't take the Waitress approach and give its with-child protagonist a sympathy-eliciting plight that forces a difficult decision. Instead, Juno sustains our interest with characters and the small situations that ensue for them. Of course, the ballooning stomach and passage of time keep us aware that a very big situation is shaping these smaller moments.

The characters are certainly colorfully, but they're not the Napoleon Dynamite-type sideshows you might expect from the similar stylings. The titular and focal Juno doesn't comfortably fit into any of the stereotypical teenage archetypes. Though not part of the in crowd, both she and the movie which houses her pay little attention to popularity or fitting in. A bold personality with an interesting sense of humor and extensive knowledge of '70s punk rock and vintage gore flicks, Juno is not your typical teen girl. She is an unlikely heroine that some will deem fresh and admirable while others will credit with rubbing them the wrong way. (You are sure to now find a mix of opinions on immature Internet message boards as part of the inevitable backlash toward the film's success and popularity.)

While the offbeat interests, unconventional outlook, and unique manners of the lead would be enough to distinguish Juno, the film surrounds its eponym with other fascinating persons who add to the air of realism and supply layers of depth. Every one of the six major supporting characters is given some personality, flair, and a unique perspective. The movie is able to do this without exposition or overstatement. The result is, though the proceedings are strictly about a teenage pregnancy, there is substance and a number of angles to consider.

Her full tray reflecting her advanced pregnant stage, Juno shares lunch with her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) in what is apparently Dancing Elk High School's vacant trophy case. Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa Loring (Jennifer Garner) compare two shades of yellow in the gender-neutral room they're putting together for Juno's forthcoming baby.

Juno either announces or reinforces the talent of a variety of individuals. Most frequently singled out is writer Diablo Cody, a former stripper, published author, and ongoing blogger. Cody's Oscar-winning debut screenplay is so chock full of clever ideas that one wonders how she'll be able to follow this up as a part of the movie industry. (We'll know soon; she's writing and producing three new movies and a TV series.) In his sophomore directorial effort, Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) proves he's not merely getting work based on his last name.
The son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, Jason is making comedies that are perhaps more sophisticated and he's earning a lot more acclaim for it.

The cast of Juno deserves credit for skillfully bringing the characters to life. Ellen Page, who embodies the lead role very well, became one of the youngest Best Actress Oscar nominees for her work. Her co-stars, whether they're playing to (Michael Cera) or against type (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), also excel.

Traditionally, a film that is labeled quirky in nearly every review it receives does not score big points with the general public or major awards shows. Juno clearly has. The $141 million (and counting) accrued from the staggered domestic theatrical distribution has made the film by far Fox Searchlight's most profitable; it has nearly doubled the gross of second place Sideways. Yet, Juno isn't completely without precedent; a year earlier, the same studio had comparable success with Little Miss Sunshine and the two movies have similar tones. I'm not positive that, had its wide opening come in August like Little Miss Sunshine's instead of Christmas Day, Juno would have been such a shoo-in for Top 10 lists and all the awards. That's not to take away from Juno, which has plenty of merit, but to suggest that Hollywood needs more than ginkgo biloba to improve its memory in assessing a year's output.

Though still adding to its impressive ticket sales, Juno will come to DVD and Blu-ray on April 15th, inviting those getting tax refunds to splurge on one of the most talked-about and praised films of its time. For customers in the overwhelming majority content with standard DVD, Fox gives a choice of a single-disc edition and, for $5 more, a two-disc Digital Copy Special Edition. In this review, we look at both of those and yet, technically, neither.

Buy Juno on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: April 15, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 (Reduced from $29.98)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Also available in 2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition DVD
and on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

Having only a compressed, watermarked DVD-R screener disc to go on, it's tough to say much here. Your typical 21st century film, Juno is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio (1.85:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 displays) and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Like the studio logos that show up at three deliberate places, the numerous compression artifacts seen here shouldn't show up on the properly mastered final product, but I'm only guessing. The dialogue-driven 5.1-channel soundtrack is very front-oriented. Though indie pop songs are heard regularly and prominently enough for the lyrics to matter, the mix doesn't seek to expand them or engulf you.

Juno is either giving a thumb up to this neighborhood's upkeep or hitchhiking in this deleted scene. You be the judge. Rainn Wilson finds it difficult to step out of the office and into the convenience store in this confounding gag take. The three young leads, joined by a bespectacled blond drummer, rock out to OK Go in the Cast and Crew Jam.

BONUS FEATURES and MENUS

First and longest of the extras is an audio commentary by director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. Their discussion is light in tone but plenty involving. They remark interestingly upon design minutiae and the challenges of filming four different seasons in a single month, while also revealing a satisfactory amount of technique. Among the many items covered in the wealth of production anecdotes
are revisions, references, music cues, and subtle visual effects. Even those who typically avoid commentaries should consider giving this fun track a listen.

Next come eleven deleted scenes (20:20), which can be viewed with or without more informative commentary from Reitman and Cody. A mix of extensions to material in the film and blank-filling moments we never saw, they're quite good on the whole and well worth checking out. Among the scenes are more moments with the Lorings and Juno's family and a cafe guitar performance by Juno.

Short doses of silliness follow. A gag reel (5:10) provides entertainment with botched takes, instinctual profanity, and the occasional barb. A gag take (1:52) finds Rainn Wilson colorfully complaining over the direction Reitman gives him for what would have been his brief second appearance (it was deleted). One would assume the row is of the Judd Apatow staged variety, but I'm not convinced it's all a joke. A "Cast and Crew Jam" (3:10) lives up to its name with members of said groups taking turns goofing around not quite spontaneously in rhythm with OK Go's "Do What You Want."

Ellen Page looks younger and gaunter in her extensive Screen Tests. Olivia Thirlby and Michael Cera make up for their characters' lack of interaction by chatting it up in the featurette "Way Beyond 'Our' Maturity Level." Oscar-winning stripper/blogger-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman sit in a theater and talk, honest to blog, about "Creating 'Juno'."

The footage of "Screen Tests" (22:30) sets
a noticeably younger and gaunter Ellen Page against a black screen, acting across from Michael Cera, Olivia Thirlby, J.K. Simmons, and a couple of actors not cast. Much of the test dialogue is identical to what's found in the film, although some lines were trimmed, which may be the best reason for watching this lengthy item in full.

The meat and potatoes wraps up with four topical featurettes, which according to the press release, are exclusive to the 2-Disc Special Edition. "Way Beyond 'Our' Maturity Level: Juno-Leah-Bleeker" (8:50) discusses the three lead teens and the actors who portray them. "Diablo Cody is Totally Boss" (8:30) focuses on the stripper-turned-screenwriter, her unique voice and participation. "Jason Reitman For Shizz" (8:00) covers the movie, as you'd guess, with an emphasis on the director. (For me, it was mostly an audio documentary as the visuals froze early on.) "Honest to Blog!: Creating Juno" (13:00) is the most general and promotional one, supplying a clip-heavy overview of the film with some repetition.

Finally, a trailers page provides a Juno soundtrack promo and previews for Charlie Bartlett, Lars and the Real Girl, and Bonneville. Trailers for 27 Dresses and The Savages plus a promo for Fox's Digital Copy play at disc insertion. Juno's own trailer is conspicuously absent. The main menu's "Inside Look" listing leads to a 2-minute promotional discussion and showcase of the Cameron Diaz/Ashton Kutcher comedy What Happens in Vegas....

In addition to the four featurettes, the 2-Disc Special Edition also delivers a Digital Copy of the film, for transfer to a computer and portable video devices. The studio has been touting the feature on certain recent releases and it is prominently advertised in the cover banner. Though the foresight merits praise, I can't imagine too many people caring enough to consider it incentive for the two-disc. Then again, new movies are added to iTunes on a daily basis, so some must be paying attention.

The menus emulate the opening credits sequence with the main menu featuring Sunny D-wielding Juno walking across an animated terrain as the seasons change. Submenus uphold the winning motif without sound or, post-transition, motion.

Clockwise from bottom left... Juno, Leah, Bren, and a snooty Ultrasound Technician (Kaaren De Zilva) take a look at the baby inside Juno's womb. Track star and baby's daddy Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) gets into a little hallway argument with Juno in one of the scenes which doesn't require him to wear a headband and short yellow shorts.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Alongside its fellow 2007 pregnancy comedies, Juno finds its own clear and unique success. It's not chockfull of laughs, not free of pretentiousness, and perhaps not entirely deserving of the hype and honors it has garnered. That said, the film is still highly entertaining, enjoyable and sure to please a much wider audience than the year's other hit comedies and critical gems. A prompt viewing is definitely encouraged.

It's difficult to recommend the single-disc or two-disc just from what is apparently a composite screener. Fans of the movie who appreciate supplements will likely flock to the Special Edition and even if they don't care about the legal digital copy, they'll get an additional 48 minutes of featurettes and the more inspired packaging for just a few extra dollars. Those who choose the single-disc DVD still get an ample serving of bonus features and aren't missing out on anything extraordinary. Really, the only way you could go wrong is by not seeing Juno.

Buy Juno from Amazon.com: 1-Disc DVD / 2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition DVD / Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Written by Diablo Cody: Jennifer's Body
2007 Best Picture Oscar Nominees: There Will Be Blood No Country for Old Men
2007 Acting Award Nominees: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Enchanted Elizabeth: The Golden Age
In the Valley of Elah Into the Wild Gone Baby Gone Eastern Promises Across the Universe
Knocked Up The TV Set Eagle vs Shark Margot at the Wedding The Darjeeling Limited Dan in Real Life Disturbia
The Cast of Juno: Superbad Smart People Extract Our Very Own Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season The Last Mimzy
Best Original Screenplay Oscar Winners: The Apartment Dead Poets Society Chinatown
Best Original Screenplay Oscar Nominees: Ratatouille The Incredibles Finding Nemo Toy Story Braveheart Big Funny Face

DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | DVDizzy.com: New and Upcoming Release Schedule | Search This Site | Upcoming Cover Art | UltimateDisney.com

Search This Site:

UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed March 31, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Fox Searchlight Pictures, Mr. Mudd, and Mandate Pictures, 2008 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.