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13 Going On 30 /

Rated: PG

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Christa B. Allen, Sam Ball

Directed by: Gary Winick

Produced by: Donna Arkoff Roth, Susan Arnold, Donna Roth, Gina Matthews
Written by:
Cathy Yuspa, Niels Mueller, Rita Hsiao, Josh Goldsmith
Distributor: Revolution Studios


Movie Image
Movie Image
Movie Image

     There is something magical about the presence of Jennifer Garner. And it’s not just about a pretty face, either. In her, there is true charisma and talent, far surpassing the glitz and glam of one-note action stars like Jennifer Lopez. This is why it’s so relieving to see her in a real movie here, rather than another brain-dead, quick-cutting blockbuster, similar to her last project, Daredevil. 13 Going on 30 may not be the highlight of her career, or even a showcase of top-notch acting, but it is a movie to remember. It proves that Ms. Garner is the versatile actress that I suspected her to be the first time I saw “Alias.”

     The plot may resemble an average retread of Big, but the execution works wonderfully. Thirteen-year-old Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is a typical, nerdy Jr. High student, who has invited the most popular group of girls at school to her birthday party, along with some older boys. They’ve accepted, willingly, after she offers to do their school-project, which is due the next day, in return. However, they execute a plan to ditch the lame event by sticking Jenna into her closet, and telling her that the boy she has a crush on is going to come in and do “whatever he wants” momentarily. They blindfold her, saying that if she removes such a diversion, she will not be able to partake in the pleasurable activity. They leave the party and grab the project Jenna has done for them, abandoning her with her best friend Matt (Jack Salvatore Jr.), as he eagerly awaits playing a song on his portable keyboard for her. At that moment, the “wishing dust” Matt has given her falls upon her head, as she simultaneously wishes to become thirty, the age of everyone who is hip and happening.

     The next morning, Jenna wakes up to find her thirty-year-old body (Garner) sleeping in her own apartment, with her boyfriend in the shower. This, of course, automatically causes her to freak out. She discovers she now has an editorial job for her favorite magazine, Poise, and is finally considered cool by her peers. A dream come true, right? Only the youngest of viewers would truly believe so. She catches up with an older Matt (Mark Ruffalo) to explain the entire situation, assuming they’re still friends. Surprise, surprise! Jenna finds that she left him behind in high school and became popular, now working with one of the same girls who ditched her birthday party seventeen years ago. Throughout the movie, Jenna confronts truths, bonds with Matt for apparently the first time in a long while, and experiences all those “blah-blah”-like conventions of switcheroo-flicks. The difference between 13 Going on 30 and the average film in this genre is a simple one—it’s in good hands. Not one member of the cast or crew makes a wrong move during the ninety-seven minute running length.

     In 30 Going on 30, Garner has the same sparkle that Tom Hanks did in Big. I know, that was just the second time I’ve referenced the latter film, and as much as I hate doing do, the parallels one is able to draw between it and this one are literally uncountable. Garner and Hanks were calm and relaxed in crafting their performances of drastically imaginative roles, but, ironically, such a style makes viewers feel at home when watching the two movies. Most importantly, both actors were able to make the material they were working with genuinely hysterical, raising the bar for other flicks in the genre. At times, I was embarrassed because I was laughing so hard at Garner’s work, simply because of the rather tired concept it embodies. The feeling wasn’t necessarily a bad one, though. I felt welcomed into the world of Jenna, experiencing the crazy turn of events in which 13 Going on 30 chronicles with her. 

     Director Gary Winick (Tadpole) has cleverly strayed from the independent-film scene, but his work here is just as pleasing as his in the 2002 film, which was made for only $150,000. His style has changed over the course of two years, in order to adequately accompany his material, but his taste hasn’t. Tadpole was about a fifteen-year-old boy, named Oscar, who dates an older woman because of his need to be considered sophisticated. Jenna’s feelings may be a bit more normal than his, but comparing the two projects is quite simple. As long as he is making quality and worthwhile pictures, though, I couldn’t care less about the subject matter of them. That is exactly what 13 Going on 30 is—a well-made, entertaining, and divertingly funny creation. It may be cookie-cutter, but its contents are as delicious as the sugary, golden brown baked goods, fresh out from Grandma’s oven.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (4.28.2004)

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