17 August 2004

13 Going on 30

After a terrible birthday party, 13-year-old, Jenna Rink revels in some pre-teen angst while unwittingly evoking the magic of wishing dust, a gift from her charming, but schlumpy best friend, Matty. Jenna wishes to be thirty, which according to her favorite magazine Poise, is the best time of a woman's life. Through the magic of the so called "wishing dust" Jenna wakes up the next morning as herself seventeen years in the future (or for you non-math superstars: 3o years old). Fortunately, Jenna's life is everything she hoped it would be. She's gorgeous aka Jennifer Garner, wealthy, well-dressed, and a successful editor at Poise. Consequently, Jenna begins to realize that her movie-perfect life came at a price and Jenna is not exactly the woman she had hoped to become. As she comedically struggles to figure out how to be a thirty-year old, Jenna seeks out the adult version of her best friend Matty, now played by the charming, and definitely not schulmpy, Mark Ruffalo. Then, before you can say romantic comedy, Jenna realizes that Matty really is the "nicest" guy she has ever met (translation: She's falling in love with him). The question remains, does Matty like like Jenna or... will he marry his equally cool fiancee? I guess there's also the question if Matty falls in love with Jenna, doesn't that mean he's hooking up with a 13-year-old?

13 Going on 30 is often compared to Big, a film that set the bar for kid-in-adult's-body films. Unfortunately, 13 Going on 30 is nowhere near the greatness of the Tom Hanks film. First of all, the wishing dust premise is rather weak as a far as magical transformation/time traveling scenarios go. Big does a wonderful job of building up the mystery and magic of the creepy carnival fortune teller machine. 13 merely relies on a packet of magic dust that looks a lot like a bag of Pop Rocks. With all the potential wishes that a thirteen year old could make, wishing to be thirty years old is probably one of the lamest wishes ever. No wonder Jenna has no friends. Furthermore, I don't know why more people aren't capitalizing on the wishing dust. What about world peace, a cure for AIDs, or the eradication of day-glo spandex? Then again, I suppose "wishing dust" is an appropriate name for a powdery substance that "magically" transports a person to an idealistic version of the future. In any case, the movie begs that the audience, like Jenna Rink, not dwell on the wishing dust too much and simply accept the fact that Jenna is a thirteen year-old in an adult woman's body.

With such a predictable plot, the movie can chalk up its box office success to its talented cast.
Jennifer Garner, for the most part, charmingly pulls off the, albeit exaggerated, naivete of a thirteen year old. On the other hand, her cuteness sometimes gets a little too cute and perky. Teenagers, particularly those that are shunned by the "popular kids", aren't that perky. The 1980s Jenna Rink certainly wasn't as sweet and cheery as the Jennifer Garner version of Jenna Rink. Despite the hyper cuteness of her squinty facial expressions, perfect hair, and stylishly colorful wardrobe , Garner, as a thirteen year old in a thirty year old's body manages to mainatin a tolerable level of charm and innocence that would probably annoy me had Jenna strictly been a thirteen year old.

Mark Ruffalo, playing the swan version of Jenna's ugly duckiling best friend, Matty is simply dreamy. Ruffalo is attractive, yet posseses a everyman quality. He's perfect as the boy-next-door all grown up. Judy Greer, who I remember as the goofy, yet high-strung assistant from The Wedding Planner, does an interesting turn as Jenna's ambitious best friend/ co-worker, Lucy. There's not much to Lucy's character, but Greer does an effective job of creating a character who is not meant to be all that likeable, but on the other hand, worthy of audience sympathy. Did I mention that Gollum is Jenn'as boss (aka Richard Kneeland)?

Overall, 13 Going on 30 is best described as cute -- cute wardrobe, cute actors, cute romance, cute situational irony -- you get the point.

My Recommendation: I wouldn't head to the video store just to rent 13 Going on 30 but I'd say it's worth renting if you're in the mood for some cute crap, especially if you have a coupon.

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