Monday, April 21, 2008

From the Archive: "Juno" DVD Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original DVD Review of “Juno”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
DVD Review originally published April 21st, 2008

The final film on my top ten list of 2007 has finally arrived on DVD, and I couldn’t be happier.  Juno is a movie that only gets better with repeated viewings, which is why I saw it a second time in theaters.  Does the film hold up on DVD?  Find out in my review of Juno: Single-Disc DVD Edition. 


“You should've gone to China, you know, 'cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.”

2007 brought us two phenomenal comedies about unexpected pregnancies (the other being Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up); it’s an offbeat topic to base a comedy off of, but it worked in both instances. 

Juno is the story of a girl named (what else?) Juno McGuff (Ellen Page), who gets pregnant after ‘experimenting’ with her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera).  She decides to give the baby up for adoption, and finds a couple who are in the market.  In the nine-month interval, Juno learns what adulthood really is about and finds out the true meaning of love.

The movie is a comedy on the surface, and a darn good one at that.  Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning screenplay is a gold mine of witty dialogue that will have you rolling on the floor.  But the film is so much more than just comedy.  There are many themes present, and the film has some profound things to say about love and maturity.  Juno’s journey into adulthood gives many teenagers a lesson in what maturity and growing up is, and her relationship with Paulie Bleeker says a lot about true love.

Ellen Page is phenomenal as the titular character; she simply IS Juno, and creates in her performance a character we can all sympathize.  She’s sarcastic and often rude, but is downright lovable from start to finish.  Page handles the dramatic scenes with a prowess not present in actresses twice her age, and delivers the dialogue with the experience of a pro.  She was nominated for Best Actress, and I honestly think she should have won.  Being funny is one thing; creating a very human character that feels completely real is another, and Page does it with apparent ease.

Michael Cera is just as good as Paulie Bleeker, Juno’s boyfriend.  He’s a bit of a nerd, but is also very lovable.  J.K. Simmons plays Juno’s father, and steals every scene he’s in.  Jennifer Garner impresses as the recipient of Juno’s baby; I’ve never thought of Garner as a very good actress, but desperate mother turns out to be the perfect role for her.  The rest of the cast is also top-notch.

Director Jason Reitman has crafted a touching comedy that has insane re-watchability;  Reitman has directed two films; this and 2006’s Thank You For Smoking, which was also a great comedy.  His best talent is his ability to get very realistic, as well as funny, performances out of his actors.  His films are funny because they are firmly set in real life.  He’s turning out to be just as good a director as his father Ivan (who directed Ghostbusters and Stripes, among other 70’s and 80’s comedies) and I can’t wait to see what the man does next.

Juno is my favorite kind of comedy; one that is moving and hilarious at the same time.  Honest to blog, this a great movie.  It would put a smile on the face of the most depressed person on the planet; the final scene pushes the movie over the edge to one of the most heartfelt, human comedies of the decade.  

Film Rating: A
TOP TEN 07: #8


Juno arrives on DVD in two separate versions; a one-disc and a two-disc.  I am reviewing the one-disc version, which appears to be lighter on extras but with a better A/V quality.

The video is better than the film warrants.  Juno isn’t visual-driven film, but the image pops off the screen.  Colors are solid and vibrant from start to finish; extremely bright colors sometimes get a bit soft, but that’s rare.  Flesh tones are accurate and realistic, and contrast is strong.  The detail is sharp as a knife; just look at the bright outdoor shots near the end to see some shots that look hi-def.  In the opening-credits animated sequence, I noticed details I never saw in theaters.  The video on this disc looks very realistic, and because of this, it draws you even more into the world of Juno.

Reviews of the two-disc edition complain that the video quality suffers from compression; I expect this is because 45 minutes of extra features are put on disc one of the two disc edition, causing some compression of the image.  I’m not sure about this, but I do know the one-disc edition delivers great video.

The audio is as good as it needs to be for a movie like this.  It’s all dialogue driven, and the audio doesn’t play around with stereophonic sound all that much.  Background noise and music never overpowers, and it complements the film nicely.  It’s nothing to write home about, but it doesn’t need to be.

Video Rating: 8/10
Audio Rating: 7/10


As I said before, I am reviewing the one-disc edition of Juno, which contains fewer extras then the two-disc version.  For the record, the two-disc includes 4 10-minute featurettes and a digital copy of the film that can be put onto an iPod or similar device.  As this is a review of the single-disc version, they do not factor into my review.

Okay then…first we have an Audio Commentary with director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody.  I’m not the biggest fan of commentaries, but this is one worth listening to.  Reitman and Cody have plenty to talk about, and always keep their conversations relevant to what is going on on-screen.  There are only spare moments of silence, and many cool production tidbits are exchanged.  This is the disc’s best feature, and definitely worth your time.

Next are the Deleted Scenes; there are 11 of them in total, and collectively they run 20 minutes.  These are fun to see, but every bit of footage belonged on the cutting room floor and I can’t see myself watching them again.  The most interesting aspect of these scenes is that, if included, many would have drastically altered the tone.  For instance, there’s a scene where Vanessa tells Mark about her dislike of Juno, practically calling her a slut; this is never even hinted at in the real movie.  There would also have been more emphasis on music if some of these scenes were used.  You can also watch the scenes with commentary by Reitman and Cody, which is a much better way to view; they explain why the scenes were cut, and we get a lesson in how Reitman edited the film.

The Gag Reel (5:11) is fairly amusing; it’s outtakes from the film, and the cast says “sorry” and the f-word quite a bit.  Like the Deleted Scenes, I can’t see myself watching it again though.  The Gag Take (1:57) is insanely funny; it’s Rainn Wilson (the drug-store clerk) arguing with Reitman about how to do the scene.  I can only assume its staged, but is funny as hell.  Cast and Crew Jam (3:12), as its name suggests, features the cast and crew rocking out to a rock-song…and it is very stupid.  The final extra is Screen Tests (20:20), which features Ellen Page, Michael Cera, and others acting out scenes from the script during their auditions.  The actors look quite a bit younger; Ellen Page is practically unrecognizable.  These are cool to see, but again, I don’t think I would ever watch it again.

The extras aren’t exactly weak; I quite enjoyed the commentary, and nothing on here (except the cast and crew jam) is useless; it’s just not rewatchable.  For a comedy like Juno, though, you don’t really need any more than the commentary.  I would have traded the Deleted Scenes for a second commentary with the cast, but what we get is a good little batch of extras.  Given the film’s huge success, they could have dumped this on DVD with nothing, and people still would have bought it; I like the effort on display here.  On a side note, the menus on the disc are very cool—they look like the opening animated scene.  I also enjoy the fact that the original poster art is used for the DVD cover—something about that poster is just cool.



Juno was one of the best movies of 2007, and a comedy everyone should see and enjoy.  The DVD isn’t quite a home-run, but the great video quality and cool commentary make the disc easily worth the price.  Juno: Single Disc Edition gets my high recommendation.
OVERALL GRADE (not an average): 8.5/10         

No comments:

Post a Comment