Eye For Film >> Movies >> 13 Going On 30 (2004) Film Review
13 Going On 30
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
As I sat, a 33-year-old woman in a packed cinema of 13-year-olds, I could sympathise with Jennifer Garner's character in this age-swap rom-com. I felt a lot like a 13-year-old myself, as her energy carried us away on a wave of formulaic hokum, and couldn't help but come out of the cinema feeling that, overall, it had been quite fun.
Director Gary Winick has been in this territory before - he also directed the risble Tadpole, a Graduate clone about a teenage boy who inexplicably wants to sleep with his stepmother Sigourney Weaver (shudder) - but here, at least, he keeps the sexual antics to a minimum preferring instead to bathe us in romantic froth while trying to pretend that neither he nor his audience have ever seen Tom Hanks in Big.
It's the early Eighties and Jenna (Garner) is celebrating her 13th birthday. Time to get your teen flick formula tick sheets out, folks, because: a) she's desperate to grow up and be the kind of successful woman that she's always reading about in Poise magazine, b) her best pal is a kooky male neighbour with puppy fat and a penchant for Talking Heads who loves her dearly but whom she just views as "a friend", c) she's determined to get in with the local coven of school bitches ("the six chicks"), despite them all being obviously foul.
Needless to say, she's about to get her wish and, with no more than a sprinkling of pixie dust, she wakes to find herself a 30-year-old man-eating magazine executive with no real friends. She soon sets about trying to put her life right armed only with a smile and the wise words of Pat Benatar's Love Is A Battlefield, while others warm to her newfound sense of Tom Hanksety, sorry, naivety.
On a predictability scale of 1 to 10 this scores at least a 15 - but the news is not all bad. In a break from the usual "waking up and discovering you're not a kid any more" standards, when Jenna becomes 30 the year is 2004 leaving the door open for some quite fun culture-shock gags and a Thriller dance sequence which works even though you can't help feeling that it shouldn't.
It's the performances by Garner and Mark Ruffalo - as the grown up version of best mate Matt - that hold your interest. He's simply the sort of lovely bloke you secretly dreamed you would end up with as a teenager and the ungainly chemistry between the two of them works without your mind dwelling on the fact that "she's really 13". Garner does goofy rather well - not since Sandra Bullock has someone run that badly in a pair of heels - but she can't stop the film sagging as the writers jam in an overlong subplot regarding the magazine she helps to edit which even co-star Andy Serkis fails to lift.
Also, it's hard to know just exactly who the audience for this sweet slice-of-life is supposed to be - a problem that also dogged Tadpole. Most of the teenagers sitting around me weren't even born in the Eighties and it was obvious that only I and a couple of mums in the cinema were getting the blue-eyeliner, ra-ra skirt end of the joke, yet the sheer predictability of the plot means it doesn't really stand up to the scrutiny of anyone older than 15.
Garner, Ruffalo and Serkis deserve better. Occasionally Winick looks like he holds promise, but until he stops recycling other, more accomplished film plots, he's not going to deliver.Reviewed on: 06 Aug 2004