BEVERLY HILLS, California — “Juno” is a comedy. “Juno” is a drama. “Juno” is Jason Reitman’s follow-up to “Thank You for Smoking,” and one of the most buzzed-about flicks heading north to next week’s Toronto Film Festival. It stars Jason Bateman and the red-hot Michael Cera, fresh from “Superbad.”
One thing “Juno” is not, however, is an “Arrested Development” reunion.
“We don’t have any scenes together,” shrugged Bateman, who played Cera’s father on the beloved-but-canceled TV show. “But I made sure I was on the set a few times to watch him do his scenes because I miss watching him do what he does. He’s so talented, and he does such a good job in this movie.”(Read about another of Bateman’s upcoming projects, “Hancock,” here.)
The film revolves around a pregnant teenager (Ellen Page), the young father of her baby (Cera) and the couple who wants to adopt the child (Bateman and Jennifer Garner).
“My character is this uptight woman who wants to have a baby but she can’t,” Garner explained. “So she wants to adopt the baby of this really wild 16-year-old, played by a genius Ellen Page, [who conceives the baby] with Michael Cera, who is also just — gosh — incredible. He breaks your heart.”
“It’s a great kind of comedy/drama,” Bateman said. “As benign and bland as that sounds, it’s got some incredible dialogue.”
Fans of “Thank You for Smoking” would expect nothing less after Reitman’s smash directorial debut, a twisted dark comedy that managed a difficult mix of realism and over-the-top insanity (see “Next Up For ’Smoking’ Director: ’Worst Comedy Of All Time’ “ ).
“[Stripper-turned-writer] Diablo Cody wrote the script, and Jason Reitman directs it, and he fills it with so much technique,” Bateman gushed. “He’s such a great director; his direction is a huge character in the movie, perhaps the star of the movie.”
“It’s just this little independent movie that I absolutely fell in love with,” Garner said of the flick, which she finally shot earlier this year after watching its script navigate a lengthy pre-production. “I had been waiting for a director to come on board for a long time, and when Jason Reitman was the guy, I was thrilled because I had just been sitting around hoping to be offered the job. And when he got the movie and I got to do it, I said, ’Let’s hire my friend Jason Bateman.’ ”
The flick also features “The Office” funnyman Rainn Wilson, “Spider-Man” veteran J.K. Simmons and a powerful grunge soundtrack that fuels the unusual bond between young Juno and her baby’s would-be stepfather. As the unplanned pregnancy transforms Page’s character from a whip-smart teen into a thoughtful parental figure, she works with her sassy friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby, “United 93″) to recruit an affluent suburban couple as the “perfect” parents for her child.
“You believe, in my marriage with Jason Bateman — which makes me laugh even to say it out loud — that I’m really uptight and hard, and that he’s really cool and loosey-goosey,” grinned Garner. “And then as the movie goes on, you realize that the relationship is different from what it seems.”
Along with all those humanely drawn characters is Allison Janney, the “West Wing” alumna who pairs with Simmons to portray Juno’s surprisingly supportive parents.
“I just play a mom,” explained Janney, cast as a not-so-evil stepmother. “I’m a mom who marries a man who has kids, and it’s about the difficulties she’s in, of knowing [she’s] not the real mom.”
“It’s very satirical,” added Garner, comparing the flick to “Smoking.” “It’s definitely got a warped sense of humor.”
However, one thing about the flick is still gnawing at Bateman. “I don’t have any scenes with Michael,” he repeated, bringing the subject back to George-Michael and Michael Bluth appearing on the same screen for the first time since “Arrested Development” was so cruelly canceled. “Since Jennifer Garner and I play a couple that adopt his baby, anybody who’s gonna draw any sort of parallels to ’Arrested Development’ — I guess the incest would sort of be a parallel. It would be weird if I were adopting my son’s child.”
When asked if being on the same movie poster will be a cruel joke for “AD” fans expecting a reunion, Bateman fessed up. “As an ’Arrested Development’ fan, I would say, ’Yeah,’ ” he laughed.
“At one point we were joking that he would walk by in the background of a scene and I would do a double-take as if to be like, ’I know that guy from somewhere!’ ” Bateman grinned. “But we never ended up doing that.”
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