A Film Review By The Mike
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Andy “Gollum” Serkis
Directed By: Gary Winick
Jennifer Garner’s turn in 13 Going on 30, her first real big-screen lead role, is a brilliantly conceived opportunity for the bubbly starlet to shine. She’s the kind of actress that needs an opportunity to show off her good nature, and this is the perfect chance to do that.
Granted, most 13 year-old girls are not so good-natured, as noted by the opening scenes of the film. But we’re willing to accept that they are out there, and willing to accept that our main character, Jenna, is one of them. She’s a borderline geek who wants to be “in the crowd,” though it’s not easy considering her best friend is her neighbor Matt, a camera-toting oddball. When she realizes this, and is freshly armed with ideas from the latest women’s magazine and a packet of wishing dust, she of course, wishes to be 30.
Then we get into the meat of the story, with the Garner’s version of Jenna waking up to find out what she’s become. She’s a 30-year-old magazine editor, who’s known for her cruelty to fellow employees and flings with celebs and married men. But when this version of Jenna starts to realize this, she runs off to find the one person who can calm her, Matt.
What ensues is your normal drama, think “Big” with a twist. There are obvious holes (How does the newly awoken Jenna understand the magazine industry so well? Why is no one too concerned that this backstabbing skank is suddenly the friendliest and most naïve person in the office?, etc.), but they don’t really effect the hijinks much. Garner is charming as can be, and her relationship with Matt (now inhabiting the body of Mark Ruffalo), is definitely what the ladies will call “cute.” There’s some great humor involving her adapting to her new age, though I feel there’s more that could have been covered. The first encounter with her coworker/new best friend after she awakes is worth the price of admission alone, as is her saving of a work party with a little bit of “Thriller”.
The plot, as I said above, is pretty normal, and thus follows the normal twists and turns all the way to its final frames. But the characters are so vibrant and entertaining that that really doesn’t matter. Garner and Ruffalo are both rising the ladder in Hollywood quickly, and show why here with great chemistry together and great charisma when alone. These performances make this movie, which could otherwise be “Cliché Going on Sucky” become “Funny Going on Touching.”
That said, there’s one unanswered question about the “Wishing Dust” in the movie that left me wondering greatly and has stuck with me more than anything the film itself presented. Granted, it’s something I wouldn’t expect a movie of this sort to answer; but if my calculations involving the finale are correct, our lead characters are sitting on a veritable gold mine. I wish I knew more. But even as is, 13 Going on 30 succeeds in being the cute comedy it wants to be, and shouldn’t be discounted even if it leaves out the deeper implications I love in my films.