Aging: 13 to 30 gets old fast
If you could see yourself through 13-year-old eyes, would you like the person you've become? That's the question posed by 13 Going on 30, a comedy most notable for proving Alias star Jennifer Garner is more than just a pretty pair of ass-kicking legs.
Although it fits in with this month's other teen-girl fantasies, Ella Enchanted and The Prince & Me, 13 Going on 30 belongs to the body-switch genre and begins in 1987, the year before the most successful of them, Big, was released.
Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is turning 13 and having the usual problems. "I don't wanna be original. I wanna be cool," she tells her only true friend, Matt (Sean Marquette), the chubby boy next door who's always taking pictures. Jenna longs to be the seventh member of a clique called "The Six Chicks," but they only take advantage of her and laugh at her, sometimes waiting until her back is turned.
For her birthday Matt gives Jenna a dream house he built for her and a bag of Wishing Dust to make her dreams come true. He loves her so much it hurts to watch.
Jenna's wish– "to be 30, flirty, and thriving"– comes true. Instead of leaving her in the same place in a different body, the story goes the Rip Van Winkle route and she wakes up 17 years later, 17 years older, but still thinking like a 13-year-old. (No time is wasted on explanations. Albert Einstein is not credited as a script consultant.)
Now Jenna's (Garner) a "big-time magazine editor," sharing the duties at Poise, the magazine she used to read, with Lucy (Judy Greer), the former leader of The Six Chicks. They're outwardly best friends but secretly rivals. You see, Jenna's "a tough bitch."
And what of Matt (Mark Ruffalo)? Jenna tracks him down and learns they haven't spoken in 17 years. He takes pictures for a living now and is about to get married.
Jenna does some silly things (mostly given away in the trailer) with her 13-year-old brain but quickly becomes wise enough to realize Matt is the man for her and Poise is in danger of going down the tubes. Will she be able to turn things around in both situations? Clap if you believe in happy endings.
13 Going on 30 is the first Hollywood studio picture for director Gary Winick, who spearheaded InDigEnt, which produced several low-budget, digital video films including his own wonderful Tadpole. His hardcore romantic spirit peeks through occasionally, so he hasn't sold out completely, but it's obvious his heart isn't entirely in some of the commercial compromises he's had to make.
The soundtrack is from all over the '80s. If young Jenna were trying to fit in, she wouldn't idolize Rick Springfield in 1987 when his teen idoldom peaked in '81; and she wouldn't be dancing to Michael Jackson's 1984 Thriller or basing her philosophy on Pat Benatar's 1983 "Love Is a Battlefield." That said, the songs are easier on the ears than the '70s-centric score from Ella Enchanted.
Despite this effort to relate musically to anyone who adolesced at any time in the '80s, 13 Going on 30 is more likely to be remembered by today's 13-year-olds when they turn 30 than by today's 30-year-olds when they turn 31.