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13 Going on 30 Review

By Shawn McKenzie 05/24/2004

I knew that 13 Going on 30 was just going to be the female version of Tom Hanks’ wonderful 1988 hit Big, but I was hoping that it was going to be just as enjoyable.  The trailer gave me hope, but when I saw the movie, I lost a lot of that hope.


Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) was a 13-year-old in 1987 who wanted to be popular.  The popular clique was the Six Chick Group, led by Tom-Tom (Alexandra Kyle.)  Her next-door neighbor and best friend, Matt Flamhaff (Jack Salvatore Jr.), points out that she couldn’t be in the group because there is only supposed to be “six chicks,” not seven.  She wants to be with them anyway, so she invites them to a party, which they only agree to go to after she does a homework assignment for them.  Before the party, Matt, who has a secret crush on her, gives her a gift of a dollhouse that he sprinkles with some sparkly “magic dust.”  The Six Chicks show up with Chris Grandy (Alex Black), the boy she likes, and after they get their homework from her, they trick her into playing “7 Minutes in Heaven” in the closet with whom she thinks is Chris.  They ditch her, Matt finds her in the closet, she yells at him to go away, and she wishes to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving” (a phrase she got from her favorite periodical, Poise Magazine) as the magic dust from the dollhouse falls on her.  She wakes up the next day to discover that she really was 30-years-old and now looks like Jennifer Garner.  Unlike Big, the appropriate time had passed, so now it was 2004 instead of 1987, and she had missed 17 years of life.  She’s an editor now at Poise Magazine with Tom-Tom, now going by her real name Lucy Wyman (Judy Greer), and was dating a New York Ranger named Alex Carlson (Samuel Ball.)  Jenna and Lucy both work for boss Richard Kneeland (Andy Serkis) whose main concern is beating rival mag Sparkle in sales, which the competitor had been doing to them lately.  Jenna is really confused by this situation, but excited as well, so she has her assistant, Arlene (Marcia DeBonis), track down the grown-up Matt (Mark Ruffalo) to explain, possibly, what happened, and to fill her in on the last 17 years.  Matt isn’t happy to see her, because she had treated him like crap when they were in high school, and they had drifted apart.  He had become a photographer who was now engaged to a TV weathergirl named Wendy (Lynn Collins.)  She eventually decides to hire him as the photographer for a project that might save Poise, partly because he is talented and partly because she starts falling in love with him.  Matt and her parents, Beverly (Kathy Baker) and Wayne (Phil Reeves), are her only constant support as she learns to act as a 30-year-old with a 13-year-old’s mind.


The trailer for this movie was funny, but unfortunately, it contained the only funny parts of the movie.  All of the awkward bits of Garner acting like a 13-year-old were in the trailer, but besides a pajama party with a bunch of teenage girls in her building, she adapted to being 30 fairly well.  Does that mean it really is true that girls mature faster than boys do?


Don’t get me wrong…Garner is a good comedic actress.  She is known for her great action skills in the TV show “Alias” and movie Daredevil, but before this movie, the height of her comedic past has been Dude, Where’s My Car?  I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like if she led a comedy.  If they had given her more opportunities to do more 13-year-old girlie stuff, this movie might have been hilarious.  It’s surprising that there wasn’t more of this, since the screenplay was written by Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, the team behind the amusing high-concept comedy What Women Want.  Maybe they know what women want, but not little girls.  It might be the director’s fault.  Gary Winick, the director of this film, helmed Tadpole, a movie that had an interesting story, which was handled in a so-so manner.  What could have turned out good turned out boring, and though this movie was a little better, it could have been even more so.


I once again have to complain about musical continuity.  The 13-year-old Jenna was watching Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and obsessing over Rick Springfield as if both of them were fresh.  By 1987, Thriller was three years old and no longer in regular rotation on MTV, and Springfield wasn’t exactly a heartthrob anymore.  Sure, he had hits up to 1985 (and one minor hit in 1988 called “Rock of Life”), but in 1987, he wasn’t exactly topping the charts.  It would have been so funny if she had obsessed over George Michael instead (think of the comedic possibilities when she finds out that he has come out of the closet.)  She could have been the one 13-year-old to enjoy an artist who had peaked five years earlier, but for a girl so obsessed with being popular, I doubt that.  They could have set it in 1982, but then the movie would have to be called 13 Going on 35.  Fellow critics have criticized me for making a big deal about this, but I could compare it to a war film.  If you watched a war film that took place in World War II, they wouldn’t be using muskets, and they also wouldn’t be using laser guns.  I don’t think that it is that hard to have historical musical accuracy.


By the way…why would Jenna want to be 30?  I would think that she would want to be 21 or 25.  Don’t most girls think that 30-year-olds are over the hill?  That article in Poise must have been very convincing!

I’m sure you are as frustrated as I am when you see all of the best parts of the movie in the trailer.  13 Going on 30 is one of those movies, but it could have been so much better.  I don’t know if it was a victim of editing or directing, but the acting and writing were decent.  Next time someone remakes Big, I hope it mines more comedic corners…and I wouldn’t mind seeing Garner in it again.

Thanks to Century Theatres for letting me see this film.  Visit them at www.centurytheatres.com to find the location near you.

Get the soundtrack featuring retro hits by the Go-Go’s, Rick Springfield, Pat Benatar, and more, plus a few modern hits by Lillix, Liz Phair, and more:

Buy this CD at

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