Just imagine the scene in a studio executive's office where a pitch is taking place to get the backing to make '13 going on 30'. The producer is saying, “ We've got the greatest story you ever heard, it's gonna be big, I'm telling ya, big! We're gonna make a real high concept movie and it's gonna be big like Tom Hanks in 'Big', but with boobies. It's 'Big' for babes!”
The studio executive nods sagely and says, “Yeah, I gotcha - it's a chick flick version of 'Big'. I can relate to that. You got a green light!”
In reality, I'm sure it wasn't quite so simple (and why not?) but the above mental tableaux haunted me repeatedly during the 98 minute running time of the body swap extravaganza that is '13 going on 30'. I'm sure I'm not the only person on the planet to have noticed the similarities, but the Blu-ray release is my first encounter with this teen wish fulfilment fantasy.
It's a movie that sets out simply to entertain and has no other pretensions like getting across a hard hitting subliminal message.
It is 1987 and Jenna Brink is a 13-year-old girl on the brink (geddit?) of womanhood. The problem is that adulthood is just not arriving fast enough! She's suffocated by her stereotypical parents, ignored by the 'in' kids at school and the cute guy she has a crush on barely knows her name.
No longer content to spend time only with her best friend and neighbour, Matt Flamhaff, Jenna invites the cool kids (the Six Chicks) to her 13th birthday party which turns into a disaster. Jenna is humiliated when she's locked in the closet for a game of 'Seven Minutes In Heaven' and everyone deserts her. Alone in the closet, Jenna makes an earnest wish with the aid of some magic dust. If only she could be all grown up, she'd have the life she's always wanted...
The next day, when Jenna emerges from the closet, it's 2004 and she's 30 years old. What's more, she is a gorgeous successful woman with a great job as a fashion magazine editor and a fabulous Fifth Avenue apartment. She is finally cool and popular. The only problem is that she has absolutely no idea how she got there! Initially frightened but gradually enchanted by her new life, Jenna soon realizes there's something missing--Matt. When she looks him up, she is horrified to discover that she and Matt are no longer in contact and, furthermore, he is engaged to be married. Jenna learns that 'having it all' is not enough and decides to take a second chance at first love.
The grown-up Jenna is played by Jennifer Garner, more widely known for her part in 'Alias', who reveals a flair for comedy. Her best friend and soulmate, Matt, is played in a laid back (almost comatose) performance by Mark Ruffalo and I wasn't convinced by the pair's relationship. There was just a lack of chemistry and spark that seems to be there in most successful love stories. The fact that the two characters are comfortable with each other is overplayed somewhat.
Andy Serkis puts in an amusing performance as Jenna's boss, while Judy Greer plays Jenna's scheming, pouty 'friend' to perfection.
Probably the scene that most people will relate to is the one right at the start where a young Jenna has her school photograph taken by a photographer who consistently gets her name wrong. She's distracted for a second and the end result is a shot of her squinting and revealing a brace on her teeth. We all have those reminders of growing up.
The movie tries to get something going mid way with a group dance number, when a grown up Jenna saves her boss's magazine party by getting everyone up on the dance floor to the accompaniment of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. She drags her embarrassed friend Matt out with her and, quite naturally, all the other revellers join in. Phew!
Overall '13 going on 30' is a movie that you could enjoyably watch at the end of an exhausting day with a glass of wine and your brain parked in neutral. Jennifer Garner is charming enough in the lead role but the movie just seemed to lack that extra bit of 'oomph' required to raise it above the 'run of the mill' programme filler material.
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