Review published
April 20, 2004
A.J.'s Rating:  3.5 Youthful Stars
 
    It's 1987 and Jenna Rink is preparing for her13th birthday.  She should be having an awesome time, but she's not.  Even though Jenna's now officially a teenager, she's still having to deal with her parents barging into her room totally at the wrong time, and is still trying to bribe her way into the popular crowd by doing their homework for them.  After a particularly embarrassing birthday party, Jenna wishes she could just skip all the drama, become "thirty and flirty", and, you know, finally have fun!  With the help of some magic dust, Jenna wakes up the next morning 30 years old, and 17 years in the future! 
       
    Okay, this story sounds kind of familiar, right?  Basically, 13 Going on 30 is the Tom Hanks movie Big, combined with a reverse time-twist on Peggy Sue Got Married.  You could also say it's one half of Freaky Friday.  As Jenna learns that her grown-up life didn't quite turn out the way she thought it would, she learns a lot about herself as well.  Yes, this movie even includes a moral along with the merriment.  What's wrong with that?  Nothing, as long as it's fun.  Luckily, 13 Going on 30 is! 
   
    Much of the merriment is due to the performances of Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, and Andy Serkis.  Garner exudes plenty of bubbly charm as Jenna at age 30, and proves positively that she has the charisma to carry a major motion picture.  I've no doubt that, for Jennifer Garner, many more leading roles are soon to come.  Another rising star is Mark Ruffalo.  He plays Jenna's childhood friend, Matt, as a grown-up.  This is a difficult part, as Matt is at the movie's emotional center, serving to ground its fantasy elements within a realistic setting.  As the film's shy romantic lead, Ruffalo hits the mark perfectly.  Last but not least, we have Andy Serkis, better known as Gollum/Sméagol from the Lord of the Rings films.  Serkis carries out a quirky tour-de-farce as Jenna's boss, Richard.  In fact, his performance reminded me a lot of Rowan Atkinson, circa Black Adder III. Perhaps the beard had something to do with that, but I digress.  While given less screen time than the others, Serkis's comic timing is so sharp that he still manages to get most of the laughs. 
   
    My only misgivings about 13 Going on 30 are small ones, so, for those who enjoy picking nits, here they are.  First, 13 year-old Jenna, played very well by newcomer Christa B. Allen, comes across as more emotionally mature than Jennifer Garner's version does.  Most of the time, Garner seems to be playing a 10 year-old.  Next, the 1980's references are also off by a few years, as by 1987 Jenna would have been listening to something other than Michael Jackson's Thriller, although that song does figure into one of the best scenes of the film, so forget I mentioned it. And finally, the movie ends rather abruptly.  The ending could have been made much more satisfying by including a simple series of progressing photographs during the closing credits, filling in the 17 years of events in Jenna's life that the movie never shows.  That would have tied in with the rest of the film, since a school photo of Jenna figures prominently at the beginning of the story and the subsequent plot has much to do with the fact that Matt is a photographer!  Anyway, it would have been a nice final touch, and they completely missed it. 
   
    Overall, though, this was a very enjoyable feel-good comedy.  For fun, lighthearted fantasy/romance, no matter how old you are, 13 Going on 30 is the way to go. 
Directed By:  Gary Winick
Written By:  Cathy Yuspa & Josh Goldsmith /
Cathy Yuspa & Josh Goldsmith and Niels Mueller (screenplay)
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Christa B. Allen,
Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Alex Black, Alexandra Kyle,
Joe Grifasi, Mary Pat Gleason

MPAA:  Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief drug references.
13 Going on 30
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