Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 16 News List

A ‘cautionary whale’

Like its protagonist, ‘Juno’ outgrows its own mannerisms and defenses, evolving from a coy, knowing farce into a heartfelt, serious comedy

By A. O. Scott  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Juno is, on the surface at least, a familiar type, surrounding herself with and expressing herself by means of kitschy consumer detritus (she calls the clinic on a hamburger phone) and pop cultural ephemera. She could be the hero of a Judd Apatow comedy (like, say, Cera, the boneless wonder of Superbad and a purely delightful presence here). Except, of course, that she’s female. Cody, Reitman and Page have conspired, intentionally or not, to produce a feminist, girl-powered rejoinder and complement to Knocked Up. Despite what most products of the Hollywood comedy boys’ club would have you believe, it is possible to possess both a uterus and a sense of humor.

Juno also shares with Knocked Up an underlying theme, a message that is not anti-abortion but rather pro-adulthood. It follows its heroine — and by the end she has earned that title — on a twisty path toward responsibility and greater self-understanding.

This is the course followed by most coming-of-age stories, though not many are so daring in their treatment of teenage pregnancy, which this film flirts with presenting not just as bearable but attractive. Kids, please! Heed the cautionary whale. But in the meantime, have a good time at Juno. Bring your parents, too.

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