But Away We Go is not Juno. I have a sneaking suspicion that the film's marketing team wants people to think that - and who can blame them? Juno managed to make 35 times its production budget, after all - but let it be known that the similarities between Away We Go and Juno are superficial at best.
Because here's the thing about Juno: it's a damn good dramedy. It's not one of my all-time favorite films, but it's damn good; I can think of few films that manage to be both as funny and moving as Juno. What's really amazing is that Juno manages to make it look so effortless. You know that symbol that's supposed to represent theatre? You know, the one with the laughing mask and the sad mask? There's a reason that they're two separate masks; not only are they both on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, but telling a satisfying story that makes just enough use of both is really really hard.
Case in point: Away We Go. This is a movie that is supposed to be a dramedy, but unfortunately, it manages to do one way better than it does the other. Neither director Sam Mendes nor the film's talented cast (featuring John Krasinski as Jim from The Office fame and Maya Rudolph of SNL fame [not to mention a kind of WTF cameo by Jim Gaffigan]) is to blame; instead, it's the script by husband and wife team Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida that doesn't quite work.
Please don't get me wrong - this is not a bad movie. Nor do I think it's a bad script. As a matter of fact, the comedy in Away We Go is solid. I laughed a lot. Yes, the actors are partially to blame for this - Krasinski makes a wonderful goofball and there are enough silly one-off moments by supporting members of the cast to fill a couple of posts here - but the situations and words that Eggers and Vida provide the actors with make for great laughs that manage not to be cheesy sitcom-y.
The serious scenes, on the other hand - which usually involve Rudolph and Krasinski wonder just how they're going to go about raising this kid of theirs without messing up - feel terribly out of place. I liken them to commercials on a TV show; some aren't bad, but if you end up watching them, you'll inevitably begin to think one of two things: "Why should I care?" or "I need to pee."
An even better comparison - in metaphor form, if you will - exists within the film itself, specifically in Rudolph's character. Verona, the character Rudolph plays, is surrounded by bizarre goofballs, some more endearing and insane than others. Verona, though she seems to be a nice woman who will no doubt make a wonderful mother within the hypothetical realm that is Outside-Of-This-Movie-Land, is so unquirky and sane that she comes of as abnormally normal. Though it's true that every comedy needs a straight man or two to keep things evened out, they typically have a quirk or two of their own - again, for the sake of balance. Not so with Verona; it's as if she's wandering through a dream, which makes us, the viewers, begin to seriously question the reality of what we're watching, thus making the whole suspending disbelief thing a little difficult.
Perhaps the film's "serious" scenes wouldn't have stuck out so badly if they had more of a focus. In these scenes, we're exposed to what should be the film's core themes or "messages", so to speak. In the end, though, these scenes don't tie themselves up very well. The question that the movie raises - "How do you manage to raise a kid without fucking up?" - at least in so many words - never really gets answered beyond "By not fucking up."
Enough movie critic bullshit, though. Despite its faults on the dramatic side, Away We Go makes for some solid entertainment. Keep in mind, though, that's it no Juno - which is to say that you'll probably have no desire to see Away We Go more than once.