Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reviews That Made the News

What is this, Napoleon Dynamite for smart people? No, it isn’t, and it invites only superficial comparisons to that catchphrase-laden abortion of a film. Juno, played by Ellen Page (who turned in a comatose performance as “Kitty Pride” in the last X-Men film), is a sixteen year old girl who has sexual intercourse with George Michael from Arrested Development and gets pregnant. Hilarity ensues, aided immeasurably by the movie’s fine cast (Allison Janey, the guy who played Vern Schillinger on Oz, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman). Juno cracks wise with about 97% of her lines, which sounds a little forced but may or may not be perfectly natural for a teenager deeply invested in seeming like a badass. Garner and Bateman provide a nuanced, reserved performance as a disintegrating couple interested in adopting Juno’s baby. The movie’s generally cheerful atmosphere and likeable characters sometimes push the central conflict into the background, but it’s ultimately pleasing even though nothing really awful happens. Highy recommended.

This review comes in on the late boat from lateness junction, but the film is still in theaters so I think it meets the strict relevancy requirements of this blog that no one ever reads. Many other critics have bemoaned the fact that the movie version misses Phillip Pullman’s stately pace, glossing over concepts that Pullman explores in depth. These critics are nitwits; Pullman’s tendentious, portentous work desperately needs this big screen enema. Lyra’s adventures come off as adventures in the movie, not painful lessons in multiculturalism or skepticism. The action moves swiftly from scene to scene without bogging down in Pullman’s unbearably tedious explanations of dust and daemons. If Pullman’s original novel had made daemons into anything other than an on-the-nose, inconsistent representation of the human soul the movie would have done him disservice. As it is, they still seem important enough that the trauma of being separated from one’s daemon seems appropriately traumatic. The film avoids the mega-downer ending of the novel by lopping it off entirely, which may very well make for an extremely depressing sequel. Look out for Ian McShane in a surprise role as evil bear king Norsely Scandinavian.

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