13 Going On 30

© 2004 Ray Wong

On paper, 13 GOING ON 30 sounds like a female version of BIG – a young kid trapped inside an adult body trying to navigate through an adult world. The comparison is inevitable.

On closer look, the new Jennifer Garner film has more similarities with PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, only in reverse. The moral of the story is: learn from your past mistakes. Only in this case, the hero has no idea what she did.

The year is 1987, and Jenna Rink, an awkward, book-smart girl, desperately wants to grow up and become popular. Her best friend, Matt, has a secret crush on her. On her 13th birthday, she gets her wish and wake up the next morning as a 30-year-old woman with a gorgeous but dumb hockey-player boyfriend, circa 2004. Soon Jenna discovers that she is the same person (or so she thinks) who has no memory of the last 17 years of her life. She is now a senior editor at her favorite magazine, Poise, and her best friend is Lucy, her childhood rival. Shocked and disoriented, she tracks down Matt, now a successful photographer, for moral support. Eventually, Jenna begins to enjoy her new life as a teenager masquerading as an adult and finds herself actually popular – she is chummy with Madonna, for heaven’s sake. That is, until she realizes what a horrible person her alter ego once was. Trying to find herself, while apologizing for and fixing the problems her “old self” has caused, Jenna falls for Matt. Unfortunately, he is about to get married. Through her problems and heartaches, Jenna soon learns what is important, but it may be too late.

In her first movie lead role, Garner (ALIAS) is effervescent and affecting as the giddy 13-year-old girl with a killer body. She exudes both childishness and maturity at the same time, and you cannot help but want to go on this journey with her. When her boyfriend starts to striptease for her then licks her earlobe, Garner’s “yuck, gross, get away from me” expressions are priceless. Ruffalo (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) is so consistently good at everything he does lately that he has emerged as the ubiquitous “everyman” of our time. It is wonderful to see a nice guy win at last. The rest of the cast deliver superb performances as well, including Greer (WHAT WOMEN WANT) as the conniving “best friend” and Andy Serkis (LORD OF THE RINGS), shedding his Gollum skin to become Poise’s high-strung but lovable Editor-in-Chief. Christian B. Allen and Jack Salvatore, Jr. make a good couple as young Jenna and Matt respectively.

The writers (WHAT WOMEN WANT) have crafted an amiable and cute, yet cliché-ridden and predictable story. Right from the start, we know how it is going to unfold and end. The film would have been more poignant had the writers opted for a bittersweet ending as in BIG. Instead, they aim low and go for the easy fix – the “happy ever after.” Even so, the film is entertaining and enjoyable, thanks to a great cast and some funny and heartfelt scenes. Director Winick (TADPOLE) dapples the story with 80’s hit songs and pop culture – it is a blast from the past, even though the party scene where everybody dances to “Thriller” is a little too much. Winick also has the smarts to capitalize on Garner’s appeal and increasing popularity. She lifts the film to a higher level than what it would have been.

Stars: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves
Director: Gary Winick
Writers: Cathy Yuspa, Josh Goldsmith
Distributor: Columbia
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual situations, alcohol and drug references


Script – 6
Performance – 8
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 6
Music/Sound– 6
Editing – 6
Production – 7

Total – 6.6 out of 10

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