The more I think about it, the more I believe "Juno" could very well be the most dangerous movie to come out this holiday season. Yes, even more dangerous than that "Aliens. vs. Predator" sequel!
Surely, with this comic tale of a knocked-up teen, coming out on top of the recent news that Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn, is also with child, some folks may get it in their heads that Hollywood is sending young girls down the wrong path.
Can't you imagine Bill O'Reilly typing up the talking-points memo about it right now: "Liberal Hollywood says having unprotected sex at a young age and getting pregnant is cool. See what you're doing to our children, Sean Penn?"
Then again, I've talked to a liberal-minded person or two who have seen it (and hated it) and thought the movie promotes an obtrusive anti-abortion message, wrapped in a quirky sleeper of a movie, that doesn't jibe with them. So it looks like both sides might find the movie somewhat damaging.
But I think it's dangerous simply because people are getting taken in by its kooky, deceptive, ultimately mediocre charms.
When you first focus on the movie's fearless heroine, plucky teen Juno MacGuff ("Hard Candy" pedophile vigilante Ellen Page), you're immediately supposed to be won over by her adorable, pop culture-savvy, um, pluckiness.
You're with her all the way when she gets pregnant, after a brief coupling with her best bud (Michael Cera), and defiantly decides to have her baby anyway so she can give it to a child-deprived yuppie couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). Oh, you're just completely clobbered by this girl's pluck by then!
Unfortunately, it's all a complete hipster, feminist fantasy. With "Thank You for Smoking" director Jason Reitman putting the whole thing on film, neophyte screenwriter/former stripper/talk-of-the-town Diablo Cody has basically written a film that plays like a self-indulgent, mercilessly referential, you-go-girl smirkfest.
There's no doubt that the character of Juno is a stand-in for Cody. (Just read her exotic-dancing memoir "Candy Girl" or her blog, whose title I don't think I can mention in this paper, and see if you don't think Cody and Juno are one and the same.)
But Cody also makes Juno a stand-in for all girls and women who ached -- or are still aching -- for coolness and confidence in their younger years. Cody conceives Juno as such a model of enviable, quick-witted femininity, the kind of social outcast who can have a cheerleader for a best friend and have a jock quietly lusting after her even in her third trimester, that Juno becomes the sort of girl every girl wishes she was (or could be) in high school.
I gotta admit, Page is the kind of smart cookie to make this fly. She's just endearing and vulnerable enough in this film that you don't want to bust her head open every time she says something out the side of her mouth.
Sadly, Cody only thought this story through with one character in mind. At times, Juno appears to be the only fully realized character. Practically all the other characters either kowtow to her or act and sound like, well, her.
Even her parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, doing their best with what they're given) appear to keep her on a long leash. And even in moments when Juno is obviously making the wrong decision, she is still the hippest, smartest person in the room. As one of my friends pointed out, "Juno" is "Ghost World" if everyone kissed Thora Birch's behind instead of calling her on her nonsense. (Man, I wish I'd thought of that line first.)
I'll be shocked if "Juno," which is really "Knocked Up" without the self-awareness (oh yeah, and that movie was funny and entertaining as heck!), doesn't start any debates between men and women. Nearly all the male characters are confused, weak and hopelessly immature, while the women -- keeping with the girl-power theme -- are sharp, strong-willed and dang near valiant. (Why do I get the feeling "Juno" will be a film men will talk themselves into liking?)
"Arrested Development" fans may also really not like the way Bateman and Cera are handled in this film. Not only does Michael Bluth not have one scene with his pride and joy, George-Michael, but Bateman's character is something of a creep, engaging in a kindred spirit, trash culture, highly uncomfortable relationship with Juno.
Last but not least, "Juno" is dangerous because, if it becomes successful, it will inspire and influence a legion of teenage girls to start acting snotty and snarky, just like Juno, more than they already do.
I'm telling you right now, if you're a 16-year-old girl and I see you and your friends chewing on pipes, talking about how your "eggo is preggo" and stuff like that, y'all better run away.
Because, as MC Lyte and Positive K once said, I'm not having it.