JUNO (DVD)

4 Stars
Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 96 minutes
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If I had to choose one word to describe “Juno,” it would be this one: real. It’s a word that comes up a lot during the special features on this DVD (if you turned it into a drinking game, you’d be wasted about halfway through), but it’s the best way to describe Diablo Cody’s script, which director Jason Reitman wisely turned into a film that avoids caricatured characters and broad humor. In other words, neither of them wanted to make a Judd Apatow clone. Apatow has his place, of course, but other writers and directors should find their own voices too, and Cody and Reitman can check that off their to-do lists with this film.

I typically avoid plot recitations only when reviewing classic films that you should have seen by now, but I’m going to skip it for this one too, since “Juno” was the surprise hit of 2007 and you’ve probably read plenty about it already. The Cliff Notes: 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, owner of a hamburger phone and an early maturity that hides beneath her wisecracking persona, gets pregnant by Paulie Bleeker, who’s about as sheltered and unsure about life as they come. She opts against abortion and looks for an adoptive couple. Juno learns a lot about love and loss and arrested adolescence in the process.

Many people have made a big deal about Diablo Cody’s past life as a stripper and her brash style of writing, but she comes across on this DVD as very earnest and down-to-earth. True, the bonus features were obviously put together before she won an Oscar, but she didn’t strike me as someone who will start throwing lattes at production assistants on the set of “Jennifer’s Body” (her next movie) while screaming: “I’m Diablo fucking Cody and I said I wanted decaf!”

Since this film weighs in at a trim 96 minutes, there was plenty of room on the plate for a variety of bonus features, including commentary tracks by Reitman and Cody on the movie and the 11 deleted scenes. Multi-person commentaries can be a disaster if one person wants to be serious and the other decides to goof off, but Reitman and Cody have a simpatico relationship that lends itself to informative conversations. You’ll learn a lot about the movie in the process, such as how many pairs of underwear had to be made for the production and why Reitman is ruthless about trimming stuff that isn’t crucial to the story, even if it’s worthwhile material. (Apatow could learn a thing or two from that.)

Moving on, we have a gag reel, a gag take (Reitman and Rainn Wilson pretend to have a meltdown on the set), a music video with the cast and crew being goofy, and 22 minutes worth of screen tests, which feature some scenes played differently. Then Cody and Reitman become the focus of eight-minute pieces about them, with the Juno, Leah, and Bleeker characters at the center of the nine-minute “Way Beyond Our Maturity Level.” Finally, “Honest to Blog: Creating Juno,” which runs 13 minutes, is an EPK-style piece that has Reitman tossing questions to Cody so she can dig deeper into the film’s origins.

In the end, we have a pretty comprehensive look at the making of this film that should satisfy most fans. I’m sure a 10th Anniversary Honest to Blog Edition will come along in a decade, but by then we’ll be downloading entire DVDs straight to our cell phones.



Posted on April 30, 2008 in Reviews by
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