Posted: 04/24/2004


13 Going on 30


by Coco Delgado

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Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: 13 Going on 30 is NOT the female version of Big. Apart from the premise of kids finding themselves in adult bodies and being set in New York City, the two films bear little resemblance to each other.

13 Going on 30 is better, for one thing.

Jenna is your typical awkward 13-year-old. It’s 1987. She wears a retainer, lives her life according to fashion magazines, loves MTV, and has parents who embarrass her. Her best friend, Matty, is an aspiring photographer who lives next door and has a huge, unnoticed, crush on her. Jenna, of course, wants to be one of the popular girls. Then, after being humiliated by the in-crowd, she wishes she were “Thirty, Flirty and Thriving” and the next morning she wakes up…

…and it’s 2004, she’s in an amazing Manhattan apartment, and there’s a man in her shower.

Of course, mentally, she’s still in 1987. Her cell phone rings, and she has no idea what that beeping is coming from her purse. She is now an editor working at her favourite fashion magazine, she’s friends with the leader of the Six Chick pack, and she’s…not such a nice person anymore. What happened in the intervening 17 years? And how can she get back to who she was?

Jennifer Garner is enchanting as Jenna. You can see the 13-year-old inside when she dances to “Thriller” and sees her shoe closet. She’s got an exuberance that is infectious. Mark Ruffalo as Matty is very much the odd kid grown up, and he’s got that wariness all misfits have when around the popular kids. You can believe these characters, even amidst all the improbability. The ending is…a little corny and simplified, but you’re glad it happened that way in spite of yourself.

One thing this film does well is portray the complicated world of female relationships…who’s best friends with whom, and the shifting alliances, and the backstabbing that goes on is very familiar to those who’ve lived it, but not always captured onscreen in a believable way. It also captures the silliness (and the awful fashions) of the 80’s and resonates with everyone who was a teenager during those years. The soundtrack is an evocative mix of high school and early college for thirtysomethings.

Big? Perhaps. But also Peggy Sue Got Married, Back to the Future and even It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s more than just a story about kid in an adult body; it’s a moral about second chances and correcting mistakes and being true to yourself. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a likable, cheerful one. The theatre was filled to capacity at the showing I went to, and at the end the audience burst into applause. And that says it all right there.

Coco Delgado is a writer currently enjoying life in Boston. You may worship her here.

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