13 Going On 30 (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/08/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

An enjoyable movie that is basically a female version of Big, with Jennifer Garner’s delightful performance making up for the script’s dodgier moments.

It’s tempting to be charitable and believe that the release of 13 Going On 30 is entirely coincidental and nothing at all to do with the fact that the remake of Freaky Friday became a surprise box office smash last year. But who are we kidding? The Suits must have taken one look at the takings and thought, “Body Swap movies equal big bucks. Hey – let’s remake Big with a cute female star!”

13 Going On 30 certainly feels like something that was rushed into production, as the script fails to hit the right emotional notes. However, Jennifer Garner’s performance is enough to lift the film into three star territory.

Magic Dust Leads To Wish Fulfilment

Christa B. Allen plays 13 year old Jenna Rink, a geeky girl whose best friend is Matt, the chubby boy next door (Sean Marquette). Desperately wanting the cool girls to like her she invites them to a party and is then made the victim of a humiliating practical joke that involves kissing Matt. So, while sitting in her wardrobe, she wishes she was 30 years old and…er…gets sprinkled with Magic Dust (don’t ask), whereupon she finds herself transformed into herself at 30 years old, in the present day and with no memory of the past 17 years but still with her 13 year old mind.

Now played by Jennifer Garner, Jenna quickly discovers that a) she’s the editor of a high-powered magazine called Poise, b) that the bitchy popular girl (Judy Greer) is now her “friend” and co-worker, c) that she has a boyfriend (“Eww! Gross!” etc) and d) that she hasn’t spoken to Matt since That Day. So she tracks him down, only to discover that he’s now played by Mark Ruffalo and is kinda cute…

A female version of Big, in which an adult star gets to behave like a child, was not, in itself a bad idea. The problem is that the film has concentrated on the comic set-pieces rather than on the emotional hooks that make the story work. So, for example, while the scene where Jenna leads a room full of execs in a dancefloor rendition of Thriller is undoubtedly a comic highlight, the scenes between Garner and Ruffalo don’t work and her “imaginative” revamp of the magazine is nothing short of embarrassing.

All The Best Bits In The Trailer

Although there are some good gags, 13 Going On 30 is the sort of film where all the best bits were in the trailer. It also completely avoids tackling the more difficult questions the film raises – such as fading out during the uncomfortable scene where Jenna’s boyfriend wants to make out, or not showing us just how she learns to actually do her job. In addition, it has an annoying ending that basically feels like cheating.

That said, Jennifer Garner’s performance is delightful and she reveals comic talents untapped by her previous roles (TV’s Alias and Elektra in Daredevil. She puts so much energy and child-like enthusiasm into the role that she single-handedly makes up for the film’s sillier moments. Just as well, really, because Mark Ruffalo’s performance is comparatively lazy, as if his heart just isn’t in it.

In short, 13 Going On 30 isn’t in the same league as the wonderful Freaky Friday and it doesn’t push all the right emotional buttons in the way that Big did, but it’s just about worth seeing for Garner’s star-making performance.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 00:03

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