"Juno," the would-be sassy girl-child crossroads where "Little Miss Sunshine," "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Rushmore" meet, is being presented as this year’s sleeper indie darling, the soft-beneath-the-snark candidate Fox Searchlight’s hoping will sneak in to snag awards, hearts and box office dollars. We must admit, we watched it anticipating the fact that we would loathe it as we have many a heartfelt whimsyfest, but ended up laughing. But… also still sort of loathed it â€” there’s something about the relentless accessorizing of layers of quirk on top of all of the characters that we couldn’t get over when the film tried for emotional appeal. (We did love the parents, played by Allison Janney and JK Simmons.)
Anyway, the critics are generally quite fond, while echoing complaints about "Juno"’s first section. A.O. Scott at the New York Times admits to gnashing his teeth for the first 15 minutes before settling in to find "the film outgrows its own mannerisms and defenses, evolving from a coy, knowing farce into a heartfelt, serious comedy." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon agrees that for the first 20 minutes, "Juno" "appears to be one of those movies clogged with quotation marks," but that "Instead of hiding these behind a scrim of quotation marks, Reitman, Cody and their actors put their hearts on their sleeves: Their movie is intimate and inclusive, the exact opposite of groovier-than-thou." "[T]he early-going rough patches that are more Wes Anderson than even Wes Anderson could imagine," writes Robert Wilonsky at the Village Voice, adding that "once it works its way through the first-timer’s lookatme! snark, Juno evolves into a thing of beauty and grace."
"[T]he movie’s biggest surprise, and reward, turns out to be the maturity and appreciation with which Cody and Reitman handle the grown-ups in the mix," lauds Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, while Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly muses that "Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™d call Juno ground-breaking â€” for that youâ€™d need a pimply heroine who stays that way and still gets the guy â€” but what sets this engaging little movie above the pack of glib, brittle or sickly-sweet teen comedies is the clear eye it casts on the suburban American family, while stoutly defending that battered institutionâ€™s elastic ability to adapt."
Dana Stevens at Slate loves the performances, and notes Michael Cera’s character’s confession: "’I try really hard.’ So does Diablo Cody’s script, but like Paulie, it’s sweet-spirited enough to get away with it most of the time." "That’s Juno’s appeal in a nutshell," adds the Onion AV Club‘s Scott Tobias. "It comes off as calculatedly irreverent at times, and its Wes Anderson-isms are too precious by half, but its sweetness is genuine and next-to-impossible to resist." Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer believes that "Juno represents an almost magical configuration of very talented people with very much the same brand of whipsaw humor," and in a review from back at Toronto, Roger Ebert writes that "Every element in the movie, including her getting pregnant, and her non-boyfriend, and her parents, and the couple that wants to take the baby for adoption, is completely unlike any version of those characters I have ever seen before. And the dialogue is so quick and funny you feel the actors are performing it on a high wire."
Dissenters: David Edelstein at New York finds that "The relentlessly jokey banter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is taken to a screechy new level. Every characterâ€™s wisecracks come from the same place, like in bad Neil Simon." He’s also unimpressed by the fact that "The jokes disappear for the end of each segment, when youâ€™re supposed to shed a little tear." Michael Koresky at indieWIRE deems the film "self-satisfied" and writes that "taking a step back from the hype, it’s hard not to feel like this aggressively clever, ultimately sentimental high-school comedy is less true seasonal counter-programming than just another Hollywood wolf in indie sheep clothing."