13 Going on 30 (6/10)

Copyright © 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.

Exacerbating my 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

The End