13 Going on 30 (6/10)
2004 by Tony Medley
I had a bad attitude
going into this screening. I had already seen Freaky Friday, a
film about a teenager becoming an adult in an instant, last year and
loved it. My feeling was once is enough. Also, 13 Going on 30 is
directed by Gary Winick, who also directed Tadpole last year,
which I thought was highly disappointing. So I was sitting there almost
willing myself not to like this.
negative mood was a particularly irritating man sitting down the row
from me who talked to his companions in a stage whisper so everyone in
the theater could hear, and kept saying how “precious” he had heard
this film was. Ugh.
The story is that
13-year-old Jenna goes to sleep one night and when she awakens the next
morning she’s 30, living in a New York coop. She’s a 13 year old in
intellect and experience inside a 30 year old body and she has no idea
how she got there, or who she is.
Right off the bat I
was captivated by Christa P. Allen, who plays 13-year-old Jenna. Equally
effective is Jack Salvatore, Jr., who plays young Matt, her friend.
Despite these two, I’m thinking that I’m not going to get sucked in
by these exceptionally gifted young actors because I'm pretty sure I’m not
going to like this movie.
Then Jenna becomes
30 and she’s Jennifer Garner and Matt is Mark Ruffalo and I’m not
liking it, at least when Jenna awakens to find she has breasts and there’s
a naked man in the shower. Also, to get this off my chest right at the
outset, Garner is from the Sean Penn school of acting, that of tearless
crying, and there are several scenes that require her to tear up. Much
as I liked Garner’s performance otherwise, her inability to produce
tears when required lessened the emotional impact of the film.
Jenna is apparently
a top magazine editor. Her magazine is in competition with another and
one of her assistants is one of her old friends from when she was 13.
The guy in the shower is her boy friend, but before she discovers that
she goes in search of Matt. How she accomplishes all this when the night
before she was a 13 year old girl requires a lot of faith in the movie
because it makes no logical sense whatever.
But, even though the
first hour, after her transformation, is impossible to accept, no matter
how much you strain your credulity, Ruffalo is so good, as is Garner,
that this is an entertaining, feel-good movie, despite the script (Cathy
Yuspa & Josh Goldsmith, along with Niels Mueller, who was
responsible for the unaffecting Tadpole). Just so you don’t
make the same mistake I did, it’s nothing like Freaky Friday, although
Jenna has a hard time making herself believe she’s really 30 and not
13. Theodore Shapiro’s lively, upbeat music is a substantial addition
to the film’s makeup.
These time warp
movies walk a fine line between entertainment and absurdity. There are
quite a few flights of fancy you have to accept in the beginning. But
after you get into the film and the story, your ability to suspend
your disbelief and go with the flow will be essential to your enjoyment.
Not to worry, it all comes together in the end, so that it makes some
sort of sense.
April 15, 2004