Friday 6 January 2017

Movie Review: 13 Going On 30 (2004)

A fantasy romantic comedy, 13 Going On 30 is a compact gem celebrating life's simple lessons in a an energetic package.

It's 1987, and Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is about to celebrate her 13th birthday. Her one genuine friend is geeky and slightly chubby next door neighbour and classmate Matt (Sean Marquette). Jenna desperately wants to be considered cool and envies the "Six Chicks" group of shallow but popular girls led by Lucy "Tom-Tom" Wyman. When her birthday party unravels into an unmitigated disaster, Jenna yearns to be "30, flirty and thriving". Thanks to a dose of "magic wishing dust", Jenna (Jennifer Garner) wakes up the next day as the 30 year old editor of the influential Poise women's magazine, living the glamorous Manhattan life.

As she adjusts to the sudden transformation from 13 to 30, Jenna discovers that Lucy (Judy Greer) is now her assistant, her live-in boyfriend is a dumb but hunky hockey player, and Poise is in a lot of trouble, consistently out-scooped by the rival Sparkle magazine. Jenna seeks out and reconnects with the 30 year old Matt (Mark Ruffalo), now a photographer engaged to be married to Wendy (Lynn Collins). But Matt doesn't want much to do with Jenna, since she grew up to be a shallow and deceitful narcissist. Jenna has to find a way to put her life right and reclaim her true self.

Directed by Gary Winick, 13 Going On 30 gets almost everything right. The film never takes itself too seriously, and contains just enough edge along with the humour and romance to entertain teens, their parents and everyone who yearns for romance as an outcome of a life lived better.

Plenty of breezy lessons are wrapped into the film, including be careful what you wish for, beware opportunistic friendships, cherish the value of family, and don't be in a hurry to grow up. But the messaging is conveyed with a light touch and allowed to emerge on the side of Jenna's sudden and frequently funny transition from adolescent to adult.

The early scenes quickly capture the trauma of high school for 13 year olds, a jungle of  insecurity, cliques and an oppressive need to fit in. Winick is just as good when the film moves into Jenna's adulthood, and her young teenager's perspective on the chic world of a glitzy magazine editor injects excellent gumption.

Jennifer Garner approaches the role of Jenna Rink with a winning, all-in attitude, and her wide-eyed, self-deprecating enthusiasm is infectious. Mark Ruffalo does not need to do much except convey mellow wistfulness while looking dreamy. Judy Greer provides acerbic support as the snooty Lucy, who grew up from her Tom-Tom years exactly as would have been predicted. Andy Serkis adds another gloss of understated humour as the senior editor attempting to maintain his cool under increasing pressure.

13 Going On 30 reverberates with a soundtrack of 1980s hits, and Winick incorporates an impromptu recreation of Michael Jackson's legendary Thriller video into Jenna's adventures. Her fantasy is as cheeky as a zombie dance, and almost as much fun.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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