“13 Going on 30” is fluff, and it knows it’s fluff, it’s embedded within the screenplay, and what makes this such a surprisingly enjoyable movie, is that the writer’s do not try to deny it and approach the situations with a humorless approach, but instead take it simply for what it is, and it works here. For a film basically compared to “Big”, being a basic remake and or sequel, it was marketed more for the female crowd along with a bit of a bittersweet approach to it that’s hard to find but is nonetheless fun once you get down to the seams.
“13 Going on 30” has the attitude of a child enjoying life as the character Jenna Rink does once she realizes she’s grown into a full-fledged adult. The sentiment is a lot different as it was in “Big”; in “Big” Hanks’ character longs to become a boy but discovers it’s not all fun and requires some sense of responsibility learning a life lesson, while Jenna in this film gets a glimpse into her adulthood if she chooses the path she’s headed towards at the age of 13 which basically makes it a different film once you get down to it in the end, and director Gary Winick who directed the grossly underrated film “Tadpole”, manages to make the film distinguishable from the other, and captures not only the feel of the eighties but paces the film along well.
Set in the eighties, Jenna is desperate to become popular and invites the cool kids to a party only to have them play a trick on her which leads to her embarrassment and when pixy dust falls on her it takes her seventeen years into the future where her life has changed drastically, and she discovers what type of adult she’s become. The film could have easily gone wrong, considering it’s a vehicle for Garner, and was mercilessly compared to “Big”, but it’s a very adorable movie for girls of any age. I was doubtful about Garner’s real acting abilities because I’m not a fan of “Alias” or basically anything else she’s done, but she manages to surprise here. Jennifer Garner is very likable and entertaining to watch here, because she looks like she’s having fun, not only as a kid being an adult, but as an adult being a kid, she manages to work on a lot of levels here with her high-pitched and excited dialogue, and charming presence amidst the characters.
Garner seems to enjoy the role and gives some many memorable sequences here. Her character has the maturity to deal with adults on the outside world but can also approach children whom also seem to flock around her, as seen in the adorable sequence with the slumber party. The film walks on eggshells because it has these scenes that could have easily either been handled wrong or milked to the point where it induced eye rolls from the audience but Garner makes it work having a great presence among young girls in the slumber party, and has a lot of fun with the hilarious scene where she has a mis – communication and asks out a young boy, a scene that could have been really creepy, but was played to the right effect where it was amusing, and let’s not forget the part sequence where everyone starts to dance to “Thriller”, right there is a scene I was sure would make me press the fast forward button, but it’s never corny and is actually pretty nice because Garner handles it with enough levity that it doesn’t go over the top.
Garner is surprisingly good here. She manages to obtain the wide eyed innocence, and youthful exuberance of an actual thirteen year old and is a real treat to watch as she picks up the mannerisms and attitude of a young girl just trying to adjust in the body of a fully grown woman and has all the basic responses such as gasping at her breasts and going on a spending spree when she discovers she’s rich. The rest of the cast is also truly a treat to watch including the very talented Judy Greer and the always likable Mark Ruffalo. When he’s not doing these good independents he’s always playing the love interest, which I assume is because he has the every man, average quality, but makes great use of his roles to make the normal cookie-cutter love interest arch – type into something individual. The chemistry between Ruffalo and Garner is great here, and Ruffalo has that trait in his acting where he’s basically able to dig up chemistry from any leading lady even in vapid movies like “In the Cut”.
Judy Greer is one of those character actresses who I assume is on studio rolodexes under the listing “best friend” actress and is called when in need of one, because she is not only one of the most likable and funny supporting actresses in film, but she always steals scenes from the actual cast whenever she’s on the screen, but here she plays a much different role, as you’ll see if you’ve seen her in previous movies. Nonetheless, I admit I was blindsided by this movie, because while it has material that could have easily been botched, the acting and great directing really make this entertaining and really adorable, and the climax just really took the cake for me.
To put it bluntly, I liked this a lot better when it was called “Big”. Because while “Big” was really a heartbreaking tale of a kid who receives his wish to grow up and learns a lesson, Garner’s character starts off as pretty unlikable and then her transformation is unexplained. Why does she suddenly want to be thirty? Does she have hopes of it taking it away from her situation? Why Thirty? And then she hides in the closet and pixy dust falls on her, so is the pixy dust the catalyst of her transformation, or does someone up there grant her wish for the better? And in the end she doesn’t really learn a whole lot of a lesson except to be careful who you trust. She lingers on her past self’s deeds, how she wronged different people, and then it’s basically focused on the whole magazine sub-plot rather than her adjusting as an adult and in the settings of her future, while giving Garner a starring vehicle, but “Big” was genuine in both its attitude and story and it was a lot better.
Not to mention the physics of said wish being granted was much more believable, like for example: She wishes to be thirty and everything is changed, so does is she hallucinating, dreaming, or does that mean time has stopped, shifted, or basically stayed the same? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. At least “Big” was somewhat grounded in reality in that he managed to change without really altering reality as a whole, but with this, it’s confusing as to how everything happens without drastically changing things, and then while many scenes are cute, you have to wonder If she was so popular with young girls as an adult why was it so hard for her to make friends as a kid? Nonetheless, it’s all pretty predictable and the warning signs of what will happen appear from miles away, and it never really gave the concept a fresh approach, only taking from precedent and altering it. Though nowhere near as good as “Big” and not on its level of maturity, this took me by surprise and was really entertaining with good acting, an entertaining plot, and guilt-free fluff that’s worth taking a look at.