Screen Reviews

13 Going On 30

directed by Gary Winick

starring Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Andy Serkis, Judy Greer

Columbia Pictures

Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen), brace-faced brainiac, represents about 95 percent of all 13-year-old girls: she just wants to be popular. For the junior journalist, popularity means being accepted by the local gaggle of Heathers, a near-impossible goal. Day-in and day-out, her only companion is Matt (Sean Marquette), the geeky junior photographer next door. He naturally pines for the gawky girl while she reads Poise magazine and daydreams of being “Thirty, flirty, and thriving.” Apparently, the glamour rag didn’t let on that for many women, 30 is either divorced-single-mother Hell or 60-hour-a-week, make-or-break-my-career Hades. Somehow, the pack of she-wolves Jenna adores make an appearance at her 13th birthday bash, circa 1987. In time-honored fashion, they play a cruel trick on the poor lass; Jenna reacts by having a mini-meltdown, kicking Matt to the curb in the process. Sitting in a closet, with a cloud of “wishing dust” sprinkling upon her, Jenna makes her birthday wish.


Lo and behold, the ugly swan wakes up to discover her dream has come true. It’s 17 years later, Jennifer Garner is looking back at her from the bedroom mirror – and there’s a naked man in her shower. At this point, you can guess that the next chapter is a feminine rehash of the “Wow, what’s happened to me?” scenes from Tom Hanks’ Big, and you’d be partly correct. Naturally, Jenna is astounded that she suddenly has a supermodel’s body, and a super job – editor at Poise magazine. But superspy/superhero Garner’s girl-next-door alter-ego fits in perfectly here, and there’s enough twists in 13 Going On 30 to elevate it beyond the Freaky Friday formula.


First of all, Jenna discovers that she’s grown up to be a bitch, and second, she finds that Matt (played by Mark Ruffalo, In The Cut, You Can Count On Me), whom she began ignoring 17 years ago, has grown up to be a fantastic photographer. Apart from some hilariously awkward moments, Jenna manages to pull off being an adult, and a NYC magazine editor. Her co-workers can’t believe her abrupt change in personality; in the film’s best moment, Jenna saves an important publicity event by resurrecting some classic ’80s choreography; with the help of her favorite Pat Benatar video, she lends some advice – “Love is a Battlefield” – to the adolescent girls at her pajama party. After a heavy dose of feel-good reverie and “That Girl” charm, the flick reveals the inevitable crises: Poise is going down the toilet, and Matt is engaged. Can this 13-year-old trapped in the 21st century turn the magazine around, get the boy/man she’s fallen in love with, and undo all the mistakes of the past 17 years? Sure, she can. If you’re around 30, a teenage girl, or have an Alias fixation, you’ll thoroughly enjoy watching Garner put adolescent angst in perspective. With its certain amount of predictability set aside, 13 Going On 30 is an innocently romantic trip down memory lane with a genuinely delightful return ticket.

13 Going On 30:

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