13 Going on 30 review by Mike Long

As with many critics, I often accuse Hollywood of being bereft of original ideas and state that many films are merely recycled tidbits from other movies. However, just like recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles can be good, sometimes using an old idea isn't a bad thing, especially if a new twist can be added to that idea. At first glance, the Jennifer Garner vehicle 13 Going on 30 may seem like nothing more than a female version of the 1988 Tom Hanks hit Big. However, the movie does add some different devices to that tale and emerges as a fun romp.

As 13 Going on 30 opens, we meet Jenna Rink (played by Christa B. Allen). Jenna is a decidedly average 13-year old girl, who longs to be a part of the popular group of girls (a 1/2 dozen teenage divas known as "The Six Chicks"). But, she's also happy doing things with her best friend Matt (played by Sean Marquette), a boy who is definitely outside of the mainstream. Jenna's prospects for popularity seem to be looking up as Tom-Tom (played by Alexandra Kyle), the leader of "The Six Chicks", agrees that she and her group will attend Jenna's 13th birthday party. But, things don't go as planned, as it's revealed that Tom-Tom and her friends only want to use Jenna to do their homework. Obviously, this upsets Jenna and she begins to wish that she was 30 years old, while, unbeknownst to her, she is being sprinkled with the "Wishing Dust" that Matt gave her as a birthday present.

When Jenna (now played by Jennifer Garner) wakes up, she finds herself in a strange apartment with a strange man (Samuel Ball). As if that weren't bad enough, Jenna is now in the body of a 30-year old woman. Jenna quickly learns that she is an editor for "Poise" magazine (which was her favorite magazine as a teenager) and that she's now best friends with her co-worker Tom-Tom (now played by Judy Greer), who now goes by her real name Lucy. Confused by her frantic situation, Jenna seeks out her true best friend, Matt (now played by Mark Ruffalo). When she finds Matt, he can't believe what he's seeing, as he and Jenna grew apart in high school and haven't seen each other in 12 years. As Jenna learns more about herself, she quickly realizes that she doesn't like the person that she's become and sets out to correct her flaws.

Whereas Big is about a boy who suddenly has the appearance of a man while maintaining the personality and thoughts of a boy, 13 Going on 30 has more of a time-travel concept, as the 13-year old Jenna suddenly finds herself inhabiting the body of the 30-year old Jenna, and must deal with all of the lifestyle choices which this older Jenna has made over the last 17 years. Thus we have the initial dilemma of Jenna waking up to find herself in a strange time and place compounded with the existential problem of Jenna finding herself to be morally questionable as an adult. Along with these semi-serious questions, 13 Going on 30 adds a good deal of goofy comedy, as the young Jenna attempts to adjust to her new adult body. And the relationship between Jenna and Matt, both as kids and adults, is very intriguing and we truly want to see them together.

Jennifer Garner, who is best know for the action/drama TV series Alias, shows that she can play comedy as well in 13 Going on 30. She is able to channel the energy and exuberance of a 13-year old girl and makes us believe that she is an innocent in a grown-up world. In an odd twist, she dresses in a very sexy and mature fashion, but maintains that young girl vibe. Mark Ruffalo, who is also known for more dramatic work, is good as Matt, as his laid-back and casual attitude is a perfect match for Garners energy. Andy Serkis, Gollum from The Lord of the Rings films steals the film as Jennas uptight boss. 13 Going on 30 is by no means a perfect film, as it rarely transcends the boundaries of the typical Hollywood romance, but director Gary Winick lends an air of believability to this fairy tale. 13 Going on 30 is an above average chick flick which will appeal to anyone who felt awkward as a teenager...and who didnt?

13 Going on 30 sprouts onto DVD courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is sharp and clear, showing only a very fine sheen of grain on the image. Winick has shot the film in a very natural style, and given the nature of the film, uses many bright colors in the movie, all of which look fine. Flesh tones look realistic and are never waxy. The framing appears to be accurate and the image is stable. There is very little artifacting. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which sounds very good. There is no evidence of hissing or distortion, and the dialogue is always intelligible. The film's soundtrack, which is full of 80's hits, sounds great, and it, along with the street noises, fill the rear channels. Stereo separation is especially good.

This Special Edition DVD of 13 Going on 30 carries many extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Gary Winick. This has to be one of the worst commentaries that I've heard in a long time, as Winick whines throughout the entire film. He complains about how making 13 Going on 30 was so much different from his independent film background and how he had to do certain things that were Hollywood standards. Look buddy, you're getting paid to make movies and you've made a pretty good one, so stop the complaining! You're much better off with the other audio commentary, which features producers Gina Matthews, Susan Arnold, and Donna Arkoff Roth. This chat is much more laid back and entertaining. The three women talk about the film's production, most notably shooting in New York, and they also discuss the script and actors. In addition, they talk about how they relate to Jenna's character and what the 80s were like for them.

The DVD contains 18 deleted and extended scenes, which can be viewed individually, or all at once with the "Play All" feature. These scenes don't introduce any new plot points, but they do have some good laughs, and show off more of Garner's ability to do physical comedy, especially in the doctor's office scene. "Making a Teen Dream" is a 19-minute featurette which examines the making of 13 Going on 30 through comments from Garner, Ruffalo, Winick, Greer, and more, plus a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage. In "I Was a Teenage Geek" (8 minutes), Garner, Ruffalo, Greer, and Ball shares stories and pictures about their awkward adolescent years. Some of those pictures are scary. There is a 3-minute blooper reel which has one great flub from Garner. "The 80s Outfit Challenge" and "Then & Now" are two set-top games, both of which are pretty silly and useless. The DVD contains two classic music videos, "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar, and "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield. (Watch them back-to-back and compare the production values.) The extras are rounded out by a still gallery and the theatrical trailer for 13 Going on 30, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is a16 x 9.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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