13 Going on 30 (2004) — Growing up way too quickly

“Oh those aren’t people, honey, those are models.”

Drew’s rating: If nothing else, I can honestly say I loved the soundtrack

Drew’s review: Now I’m not one to toot my own horn, but before I begin, I’d like to point out that this is the second chick flick I’ve reviewed in recent months. (I also now realize that Mark Ruffalo starred in not one but both of them, making me believe he’s in very real danger of actually growing breasts himself in the near future, but that’s another story.) And unlike Just Like Heaven, this one was viewed at the behest of awesome contest winner SpankyLoo rather than the fiancée, thus affording zero possibility of suitable repayment and causing me no end of embarrassment at the hands of a smirking, raised-eyebrowed video store clerk.

But a deal is a deal, and so last weekend I popped in the DVD and steeled myself for punishment; taking comfort only in the fact that beside me, Lady Luck was undergoing her own ordeal in writing 863 different variations of “Thank you ever so much for the stainless steel, Hemi-powered salad shooter, it’s exactly what I’ve wanted since I was a little girl!” (Aren’t bridal showers fun?) And at the end of it, the two of us and her best friend had all arrived at the same conclusion — there’ll always be some appeal in the concept of a kid suddenly becoming an adult, but if you’re trying to make the girl version of Big, well baby, there’s definite room for improvement.

Young metal-mouthed, four-eyed geek Jenna Rink has sadly fallen into the trap of stock Hollywood desire #11c, wanting nothing more than to be accepted by the clique of popular girls in school, the Six Chicks (who’re about 4 years away from becoming the Heathers). But instead she’s stuck hanging around her dumb old actual friend Matt, who compensates for being chubby with great musical taste, in much the same way smartass internet reviewers compensate for never having gotten chicks in high school.

Ol’ Matt’s not about to let the same fate befall him, so he makes Jenna a sweet dollhouse for her 13th birthday, onto which he sprinkles a handy dandy packet of mysteriously plot convenient “magic wishing dust.” Awww. Unfortunately, the Six Chicks wreck up Jenna’s party and leave her bawling in a closet, accidentally spilling the dust on herself while wishing she were “thirty, flirty, and fun.” Naturally, nothing happens and she eventually gets over it, realizes what a great guy Matt is, and accepts her life as it is.

Ha ha, just kidding! Of course not — instead, Jenna wakes up to find herself a Garnerlicious (shut up, it’s a word) 30-year-old magazine executive, living an idyllic life in the Big Apple. She quickly adjusts and lives happily ever after. No wait, that’s what I wished for. Instead she seeks out grown-up Matt (Ruffalo) for advice, who sets her straight: her future self has indeed carved out a successful material existence, but at the expense of becoming a deceitful, manipulative, and all-around terrible person. Horrors! Jenna can’t have that, so in the midst of saving her floundering magazine and outmaneuvering colleague/former Six Chick Lucy (Judy Greer), she must also reconnect with Matt, get rid of his fiancee, and remind him — and, just maybe, herself too? — about what’s really important in life. Which I’m guessing is not being thirty, flirty, and fun. Except for the last two.

All joking aside, the plot itself is predictable but solid enough, with serviceable if not noteworthy performances by most of the lead actors. In addition, it has some funny lines, Jennifer Garner is pretty attractive (and a fellow Denison U. alumnus, go Big Red!), and the main character’s actions actually coincide with the stated moral, which is a nice change of pace from some films I can think of. Overall it’s bearable for a chick flick — for any guys forced to watch with their ladies, there’s no nudity but we also don’t get raked over the coals too badly as a gender, so it all kind of balances out. Also, as mentioned earlier, the music in the movie was well chosen and appropriate to each scene. No matter what I may think of certain other aspects of the film, give that music coordinator a bonus.

But where I think 13 ultimately falls a bit short is in the execution. Maybe it’s just me (and the people I saw it with), but unlike certain other coming-of-age parables, this one felt like just another gimmicky summer flick meant to separate you from your $7.50 and keep another up-and-coming starlet in the tabloids. Some of Jenna’s antics are funny, but never is there any sense of drama or concern because no one actually believes she won’t just wake up 13 again in the end.

As is the trend these days, all of the movie’s best moments were in the previews, including the scene where Jenna leads a group of partygoers in an impromptu performance of “Thriller.” It’s somewhat cute, but it also garners unfavorable comparisons with Big’s infamous “Chopsticks” routine — while that scene legitimately evoked a feeling of spontaneous, lighthearted fun, the Thriller feels like exactly what it was… a cool scene to be shown in trailers. It’s just impossible to watch without thinking of the choreography that went into it, or to remember that most of the people taking part don’t look old enough to have even been born when the song came out.

I feel bad criticizing somebody else’s movie choice (sorry, Ashley!), but at the same time, I can’t lie — this is an okay movie at best. It has some funny lines, the premise is familiar but cute, and it’s fun watching the contrast of someone raised in the ’80s suddenly plopped down in modern times.

But at the same time there are no standout performances, the deus ex machina is a little too convenient (sending her not just back to her 13th birthday, but that extra few seconds to before she pissed Matt off? Was that necessary?), the humor is uneven, and some of the messages it sends are just plain confusing (“I have felt things these past few weeks that I never thought I would feel again… and that’s why I’m still going to marry this woman who doesn’t make me feel that way. Someone I get a disappointed look on my face when I see her.”). When all’s said and done, this one’s only for the Garner completists and people who’ve already seen Big a hundred times.


  • Better method of getting older: Zoltar or magic wishing dust? Discuss.
  • Lady Luck reminds me that engaged men falling in love with other women is NOT okay. Ever. Ever.
  • This is the second Mark Ruffalo movie I’ve seen with crazy chicks babbling nonsensical stories at him. At least he seems to believe Jen Garner a lot quicker than he did Reese Witherspoon.
  • The 3 of us twentysomethings watching the movie all agreed: who on earth wishes to be 30 instead of 25? C’mon, that’s like old as Methuselah. Yikes.
  • Who says on their answering machine how long they’ll be on vacation? “Hey, if you’re looking to rob the joint, you’ve got till the 18th.”
  • Props to Matt for his sweet t-shirt collection. Talking Heads rule, and extra attention for CBGB & OMFUG is not a bad thing.
  • Speaking of which, in a nice bit of continuity, the song that young Matt “dances” to is “Burning Down The House” by Talking Heads.
  • Yeah, no straight man strips as well as Jenna’s boyfriend. And tighty whiteys? Come on.
  • But wait… if Matt doesn’t have Jenna’s rejection to motivate him, won’t he just stay fat? Why does he still look like Mark Ruffalo instead of Chris Farley?
  • For that matter, if they get together much earlier, why do they still wait till they’re 30 to get hitched? 17 years together before marriage… that’s only three less than my cousin, and she’s gotta have the record.

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