Jennifer Garner makes her push as leading lady in 13 Going on 30, a delightfully entertaining girl version of Big. Garner plays Jenna Rink, a 13-year old from the 1980's, who, after making a wish, wakes up in 2004 as her 30-year old self and realizes just how great it is to be a kid.
I had low expectations going into this film, and for good reason. After all, how many times has the body-swapping kind of story happened, and how many classics are there to suggest that this genre need not any new entries? Nevertheless, 13 Going on 30 is amazingly really funny, entertaining and downright enjoyable, from its cast of characters to its plot points.
When Jenna wakes up one morning in 2004 as a 30-year old, she discovers that she is dating a New York Ranger, as well as seeing various married men on the side. In addition, she is a fashion magazine executive, a somewhat cliché career but a proper compliment to Tom Hanks' role as a toy designer in Big. As she adjusts to her new surroundings (in addition to suddenly being older, she is in a different decade and thus is not acclimated to such things as cell phones), she begins to realize how much of a bitch her alternate self was (she can't remember the last 17 years) and how she truly lacks any real friends. Her only hope is in her junior high friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo), who is now engaged.
13 Going on 30 has some great jokes, but more than anything is driven by Garner's perfect performance. While we perhaps lose touch with her 13-year old self near the end of the movie, she, for the most part, plays a little girl with great skill, always bubbling with excitement the way teens do. It is quite entertaining watch Garner play such an innocent person amidst a group of cutthroat executives, especially the one played by Judy Greer, who does a great job as the sly "best friend" who truly is anything but.
In retrospect, it would have been nice to see a few more things fleshed out, especially her adaptation to the modern day world. Though the movie does make fun of the fact that she has never heard or seen a cell phone before, what about computers? Furthermore, some scenes were cut out for time that would have given a little more depth to the story; specifically, the movie never wraps up the relationship with her Ranger boyfriend (Samuel Ball, who is very funny as the stupid jock). The deleted scenes on the DVD clear this storyline up, but it still feels as though the director and screenwriters tried to avoid this potentially complicated storyline altogether.
The movie also ends in a fairly satisfying way, and in a way that isn't "completely" predictable. You can guess how it will end and probably be right, but the movie does avoid a few clichés that, admittedly, would have been nice to see but would have been more of the same.
13 Going on 30 will easily rank as one of the more entertaining films of 2004 - don't be scared by its pre-teen girl look; it is much more than that. The movie deals with more adult humor than suspected, while at the same time remaining lighthearted and appropriate for the whole family.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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