Birthday girl Jenna Rinks hates her life: a slow to blossom bra-stuffing gawky about to be 13 year old she spends her time trying to be part of the ultra popular Six Chicks clique, and thinking about Chris the blonde hunk of her dreams. When her birthday party turns out to be a bust, Matt, the best friend boy next door unknowingly comes to the rescue with his gift of wishing dust. Jenna, in a fit of desperation begs to bypass the agony of being a teenager and skip to being thirty and flirty like the models that cover her walls. She wakes up the next morning in a strange apartment, with a live-in boyfriend, a fantastic job and realizes that wishes do come true. But not of course nothing comes without a price.
These feel so much better than Kleenex
There is a long established tradition in Hollywood whereby classics are resurrected and refurbished in the hopes of generating some easy box office (I’m sure that providing entertainment fits in there somewhere…). Most recently it’s been the classic eighties that are being re-imagined - think Risky Business 2004 aka The Girl Next Door. Anyone who has seen the trailers for 13 Going on 30 will instantly recognize that Big, the surprise hit that cemented Tom Hank’s role as a bankable player in Hollywood, was the source material. While the two films share many similarities, it isn’t a simple matter of putting Hanks’ character in a dress (which would actually classify it as a Bosom Buddies remake, which is I’m sure we can all agree is something that we can do without).
Jennifer Garner, best known as super spy Sidney Bristow, and to a lesser extent leather clad assassin Elektra (she begins filming the Daredevil spin-off later this month in Vancouver), harbours a secret known only to her closest friends: beneath the supermodel good looks and incredible body beats the heart of a kid. How else can you explain a women who eschews limo’s and golf carts, preferring instead to tool around ABC’s expansive back lots on a bubble gum pink bicycle complete with bells. It is that unbridled enthusiasm and sweetness that shines through as Jenna struggles to understand and adapt to her new environment: Garner captures her joy, confusion, and most importantly, wide-eyed innocence..
Mark Ruffalo, one of my favorite actors since I saw him in You Can Count On Me, is a welcome addition as the grown up Matt, tempering Garner’s zest, with a restrained sensibility: thrilled as he is to have Jenna back in his life, Matt is also weary. The natural rapport between the actors, helps you slip into the story, even when it’s at its most ridiculous. Samuel Bell is amusing as Jenna’s dimwitted hockey star trophy boyfriend who clearly forgot to wear his helmet for one check too many. Rounding out the supporting cast is Judi Greer as Lucy, a former member of the Six Chicks, and full-time back stabbing ladder climber who serves as a mentor of what not to be.
13 Going On 30 is not a great film, nor a particularly novel idea. It is however, and I cringe while typing this, an unrepentantly cute film that distinguishes itself from the original. And with the dimpled Garner as the Mistress of Ceremonies, one would be hard pressed to watch her performance and not be caught up in the spirit. I defy you not to smile.