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It’s easy to say that Juno is the movie that Knocked Up should have been.

It’s one of those glib formulations that we critics are always coming up with, and it slights Judd Apatow’s imperfect but uproarious comedy. The thing is, sometimes the easy assessment is also the one that’s spot on. I hate when that happens, but given that this movie is so charmingly spiky and moving and funny, I can let it slide. I can do better than that, actually. I can tell you that this little film is one of the year’s best.

The movie takes its name from Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old western Minnesota girl whose low-maintenance look belies her fiercely cultivated tastes in old-school punk rock and Dario Argento horror movies. She cops early on to not knowing what kind of girl she is, but in truth her sense of herself is pretty solid, and it’s somewhat awe-inspiring to see how little her pregnancy knocks her off stride. (To be fair, everybody around her does exactly what they’re supposed to do and supports her.) After initially deciding on an abortion, she reverses course and decides to let someone adopt her baby, “maybe a woman with a bum ovary, or a nice couple of lesbos.”

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