Trite lessons in life for a 13-year-old“13 Going on 30” is one of those movies you want to enjoy, but can’t quite. It has a few laughs and some feel-good moments, but ultimately it’s just trite.
It’s 1987, and 12-year-old Jenna dreams of joining the Six Chicks, the most popular girl clique at her school. Her best friend is a chubby boy, Matt, who’s in love with her. At her 13th birthday party, Matt gives her a miniature house he’s built, sprinkles it with pixie dust and tells her to make a wish. As the party comes to a disastrous end, she wishes to be “30, flirty and thriving.”
She wakes up in 2004, in the body of Jennifer Garner. She’s now the editor of Poise, the magazine she worshipped as a girl. The leader of the Six Chicks, Lucy (Judy Greer), works with her. The 30-year-old Jenna has breasts, a fabulous apartment in New York and a sports star boyfriend.
Trying to figure out what’s happening, she tracks down Matt (Mark Ruffalo), who has shed his fat and is now a rather cute photographer. Matt, who is engaged to be married, fills her in on some of her past. He doesn’t know a lot, though, because after the party, Jenna became a Six Chick and stopped talking to him. Matt’s gone his own way, and is now engaged.
Jenna finds reasons to have been careful what she wished for. Her magazine is sinking. To make matters worse, she’s become a scheming backstabber who doesn’t talk to her parents and is having an affair with a coworker’s husband (to keep this movie dewey-eyed, that part is glossed over).
The child-in-an-adult’s-body idea worked in the movie “Big,” and the angst of childhood popularity contests evoked laughs in “Mean Girls.” But “13 Going on 30” never fully enchants. It’s as if the writers didn’t know exactly where to go with the material at hand. Are they trying to be funny, poignant or dispense some moral advice?
Funny (in an embarrassing way): Jenna getting a hip party going by dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” When her boyfriend puts on a strip tease, her 13-year-old mind freaks out.
Poignant: Jenna goes home and asks her mother if she ever wishes she could go back in time and change anything. When her mother says no, Jenna asks, But didn’t you make any mistakes? Her mother answers, Yes, but they made me into the person I am today.
Moral lessons (there are a lot of them): Being popular is not the only important thing in life. Love may be right next to you. Thirteen may be an awkward age, but it can be a life-changing one.
But the movie actually sidesteps some of the wisdom it dispenses. And considering the morals it presumes to hand down, the ending must be one of the worst insults in movie history.
What pulls the movie together is a soundtrack that many adults will be able to relate to, whether they were children, teenagers or adults in 1987. The acting is also solid. Garner mostly pulls off the childish, gawky act. She’s also anchored to some sense of reality by the gruff Ruffalo. And Greer turns in another fantastic performance in a supporting role. It’s just too bad the script they had to work with was so tepid.
13 Going on 30
Comedy, Drama / English
by Joe Yonghee