ALSO KNOCKED UP
by Kevin Bowen
published December 19, 2007
now playing in select cities
What’s all the rage in
Hollywood today? At least the legal and moral one?
Trying to find the next Little Miss Sunshine.
That highly amusing and highly profitable Little Indie Comedy That Could is the type of film that can make a career. For
that reason, the nets are cast high and wide. This week, Juno is the one that they’re reeling in.
There’s just one problem with this particular catch. This teen-age pregnancy comedy is not nearly as funny as last year’s yellow
VW sensation. Nor is it quite as original as it thinks. However, it is admittedly warm and modestly entertaining.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody’s much praised dialogue is freshly youthful, as well as bluntly and humorously sexual, at least to
the ears of fogeys unaware that the term “pork sword” had come into existence. But for a while, every character seems dipped head first in
the same vernacular. A little too often, Cody comes across as the person trying to name-drop bands into an exalted state of hipness. The
effect resembles one of Heath Ledger’s memorable lines in I’m Not There: the more they tried to be youthful, the less
youthful it seemed.
The film lightens up, straightens out, and begins to give its characters their own shapes, albeit never leaving familiar
territory. We get a quirkily smartass performance from a wise-beyond-years Ellen Page as the preggers teen-ager, looking
to dump her little accident on an anxious, infertile yuppie (Jennifer Garner) and her henpecked musician husband (Jason
Bateman). It also gives J.K. Simmons, everyone’s favorite Hollywood bureaucrat, some room to be funny and likable. Theirs is one of a group
of honest, perceptive relationships laid out in the film.
I have trouble buying the relationship that develops between Juno and Bateman’s emotionally buried husband. Or maybe not so much
trouble buying it as thinking that it would be emotionally richer if it had gone another way. It seems a way to create a
melodramatic consequence of teen-age pregnancy, while the movie dances around more likely ones. As teen-age pregnancies go, this one is
Between this film and Knocked Up, you have to wonder if any writer today has the ability to write a complete pregnancy
comedy. Judd Apatow managed to create the only example that seems interested in everyone but the mother. A young woman still seems a source
of mystery to his Inner Geek. Cody naturally nails that part, but the needs of the men seem exaggerated or misunderstood. If you could
atom smash these movies together, they might make an explosive result. But I can live with the modest delights that they each
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com