Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Samuel Ball, Marcia DeBonis, Christa B. Allen, Sean Marquette
Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa
For some, 13 feels like it was just yesterday. For Jenna, it was.
Jennifer Garner (Daredevil, TV's "Alias") and Mark Ruffalo (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) star in this hilarious flash-forward romance about a pre-teen girl who goes from geek to glamorous.
With the help of some magic wishing dust, 13 year-old Jenna Rink (Garner) becomes 30 and gorgeous overnight, with everything she ever wanted, except for her best friend Matt (Ruffalo). Now, this grown woman must create some magic of her own to help the little girl inside find the true love she left behind.
$21.054 million on 3438 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 99 min.
Release Date: 8/3/2004
• Audio Commentary with Director Gary Winick
• Audio Commentary with Producers Donna Arkoff Roth, Susan Arnold and Gina Matthews
• Deleted Scenes
• “Making of a Teen Dream” Featurette
• “I Was a Teenage Geek” Featurette
• Fun & Games
• Video Gallery
• Music Videos
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
13 Going On 30: Special Edition (2004)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 6, 2004)
Part of a fantasy genre that takes place in the real world, 2004’s 13 Going On 30 introduces us to early teen Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen). On the brink of her 13th birthday, she wants nothing more than to fit in with her school’s cool kids, a band of six girls called - logically enough - The Six Chicks. Though her pudgy and unpopular neighbor and best friend Matt Flamhaff (Sean Marquette) points out that you can’t add a seventh Six, Jenna does her best, especially since a connection with that group might hook her up romantically with school stud Chris Grandy (Alex Black).
Led by “Tom-Tom” (Alexandra Kyle), the Sixes promise to come to Jenna’s birthday party if she completes much of their work on a school project. She readily agrees and they indeed arrive. The conniving Tom-Tom tells Jenna she’ll get “Seven Minutes in Heaven” with Chris if she dons a blindfold and waits for him in her closet. She eagerly does so, but Tom-Tom fixes things so that Matt instead enters the closet.
When she discovers the ruse, Jenna reacts angrily at Matt and declares that she wishes she were 30; previously, we saw her read Poise magazine - her favorite fashion rag - and its article about the fabulousness of being that age. In addition, Matt gave Jenna a lavish homemade dollhouse that she rejects in her fury. He’d sprinkled store-bought “wishing dust” on it, and this spills onto Jenna as she incessantly reiterates her wish to be 30.
Who woulda thunk it, but the magic dust really delivered! When Jenna awakes the next day, she finds herself in a strange apartment and in a strange body. Overnight Jenna developed into a woman (Jennifer Garner) with a whole life of her own. She has a star hockey player boyfriend (Samuel Ball) and she works as a hotshot editor at her beloved Poise, where she toils with her best friend Lucy (Judy Greer), the grown-up Tom-Tom!
Of course, Jenna has no clue about any of this; to her, she just turned 13 the prior day. Jenna needs to sort out what happened and deal with this new reality. To do so, she looks up Matt (Mark Ruffalo); after, he was her best friend only 24 hours earlier in her world. To him, however, it’s been 17 years since Jenna and he had a positive relationship. We quickly learn that after the fateful 13th birthday party, she turned on Matt and made her way with the Sixes, which eventually turned her into a selfish mega-bitch (albeit one who hangs out with Madonna and makes a six-figure salary).
When Jenna reconnects with Matt, he initially treats her warily, but after a few more encounters, he starts to warm up to her. He clearly remembers his old feelings, and when a brighter, sunnier Jenna begins to emerge - that is, the Jenna without 17 years of bitchy baggage behind her - the two click. A spanner in the works interferes with their prospective romance; Matt’s engaged and supposed to get married soon.
The movie mainly follows Jenna’s attempts to work out her current life. She gets to know Matt and tries to deal with the pressures of her job and other elements. Her career comes to a boil due to competition with rival Sparkle magazine, which regularly rips off Poise’s ideas and one-ups them. Jenna’s boss Richard (Andy Serkis) requires his staff to come up with brand-new concepts, and this eventually posits Jenna and Lucy against each other. All of this happens while Jenna and Matt fall in love despite his prior commitment.
(Note: my initial discussion includes a few potential spoilers; if you want to skip those, jump ahead to the first place you see bold text.)
Inevitably, 13 draws comparisons to 1988’s Big. The latter remains the best of this genre, and both films also go for a flavor different from the Freaky Fridays of the world. Whereas that kind of flick involves body swapping, this form keeps the person in his or her own body; they just age a whole bunch immediately.
While Big provides the template for 13, that doesn’t mean the newer flick is nothing more than a carbon copy with a female twist. Actually, it feels like a combination of Big and The Butterfly Effect, of all things. That’s because the choice Jenna makes at 13 affects the rest of her life, and like Effect’s Evan, she wakes up as an adult with no recognition of her past.
Frankly, I like the Big template better. Obviously, we need to swallow a lot of fantasy to accept any of these flicks, but Big does its magic logically. In that film, Josh simply grew up physically overnight. He didn’t wake up to a different place or time or life; he was just… big.
Instead, Jenna goes to what seems to be some sort of alternate universe. We see the way her life turns out when she follows her path as prescribed by her 13th birthday humiliation. The movie doesn’t present this as a reversible action, though. That causes an interesting variation from the usual flick of this genre. In Big, Freaky Friday, Vice Versa and virtually every other film like this, the characters spend much of their time trying to get back to where they once belonged. Jenna really doesn’t do this. She attempts to cope with the change, but she clearly doesn’t understand what caused it and she doesn’t do much to seek a fix.
That’s an interesting twist, but since the audience clearly anticipates that this situation will revert, it makes any efforts in that regard tougher to swallow. It comes across like some funky multi-dimensional leap that lacks internal consistency. At least the world of Big made sense; when the flick ended, Josh simply shrunk to his original size and he went back to his life as a kid. All else remained in place, so everyone who knew Big Josh remembered him, and the events in which he participated maintained their effect. That doesn’t happen in 13, and the easy use of magic moderately harms the movie. It’s an interesting twist on the genre, and it keeps the film from being a carbon copy of Big, but it doesn’t work out cleanly.
Garner almost single-handedly makes 13 work. Not that the others don’t contribute to its success, but without a winning lead, the film would definitely collapse. Jenna remains on-screen the vast majority of the time, as we see exceedingly few scenes without her present. Had she flopped, the movie would have gone downhill with her.
Early on I worried that Garner might play the role too broadly to make it fly. She brings a rather cartoony flavor to her early scenes as Jenna, and I think she goes a little too far on occasion; she strains so much to play the kid that it feels unnatural.
Happily, Garner quickly eases into the role. She never achieves the heights reached by Tom Hanks in Big, as he provided a shockingly believable and deft performance that should have snared him the Oscar. Nonetheless, Garner allows us to buy the girl in the adult body, especially as Jenna comes to grips with her situation. The character matures and handles things appropriately well but maintains the kiddie spirit. Garner allows us to believe the story and makes the movie fly.
The supporting cast also fares well, though I must admit the presence of Andy Serkis distracts me; I’ve seen so much of him as Gollum that I kept waiting for him to call Jenna his precious. Not that he looks or sounds like Gollum here; actually, he seems to channel Tim Curry. It’s just that those of us who’ve waded through the mounds of supplements with the Lord of the Rings DVDs know him well and quickly associate him with that part.
Probably the most pleasant surprise comes from Ruffalo. Though he’s appeared in a number of flicks, I currently most strongly associate him with his sleazy detective character from In the Cut. Because of that, I thought he seemed like an odd choice for the nice guy part, but he pulls it off swimmingly. Ruffalo brings a nice sense of warmth and vulnerability to the part. During his early scenes, you feel his affection for Jenna but also detect how her cruelty toward him as a kid tempered those emotions. He comes across as likable and natural in this excellent performance.
The biggest weakness of Ruffalo’s casting comes from the fact he looks almost nothing like Sean Marquette, the kid who played the teen Matt. Yeah, he’s supposed to look different, as young Matt’s tubby and adult Matt’s fit, but I saw no resemblance. Contrast that with Garner/Allen and especially Greer/Kyle. The latter pair seems particularly well-matched; when I saw Greer on screen for the first time, I immediately reckoned that she was an adult Tom-tom.
I can’t say that director Gary Winick does much to make 13 succeed, though he brings a nicely understated tone to the flick. It usually avoids the campiness or broadness that would make it too silly. He lets some segments go on too long - the “Thriller” dance at the Poise party never seems to end - but otherwise, he shows admirable restraint in the milking of most areas.
I wouldn’t call 13 Going On 30 a totally satisfying movie. Its ending lacks the bittersweet tenderness of Big’s, and it tries to hard to please the crowd. Nonetheless, the film entertains consistently and provides enough gentle humor and romance to make it worth a look.
Nerdy complaint: I thought Jenna’s musical preferences made little sense for a girl who turned 13 in 1987. She adores Rick Springfield and also loves songs like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield”. All of that music topped the charts in the area of 1982-1983, which means it’s odd for a 13-year-old in 1987 to choose that work as her preference. It’s not impossible, of course, but given Jenna’s desire to be popular, she would logically latch onto material big in 1987. I get the feeling the story was originally meant to take place in 1983 but had to be moved to 1987 to accommodate Jenna’s 17 year jump in age; otherwise, adult Jenna would have lived in 2000, which would have confused audiences.
The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+
13 Going On 30 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Never less than watchable, the picture nonetheless came across as less positive than I expected.
Sharpness caused some concerns. While the movie usually appeared acceptably concise, more than a few shots looked slightly soft and ill-defined. Some of that seemed to stem from edge enhancement, which never became overwhelming but which often looked heavier than usual; noticeable haloes popped up at times. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but some source concerns crept into the image. Grain looked surprisingly heavy at times; no, it didn’t dominate, but it was thicker than normal for a modern movie. Otherwise, I noticed a few specks but no significant additional defects.
Given its fantasy concept and girlie tone, I expected a broad palette from 13, and that’s what I got. Mostly the colors worked well, and they often came across as nicely bright and dynamic. However, they also could appear somewhat thick and oversaturated at times. Some of this may have resulted from production design, but I felt the colors lacked a consistently satisfying tone. Blacks were nicely deep and firm, but shadows varied and could look too dense on occasion. The many highs of 13 kept it from dropping below a “B-“, but the mixture of concerns meant I wasn’t comfortable with a grade higher than that.
While the picture of 13 Going On 30 didn’t live up to expectations, I got exactly what I expected from this sort of film. As usual for a romantic comedy, the soundfield maintained an emphasis within the forward spectrum. There I heard good stereo separation to the music and nice delineation for the other elements. Most of the effects tended toward the ambient side of the equation, but a few scenes came to life in a more compelling manner. Actually, the “Thriller” dance number was the prime example of this, as most of the time, the track stayed light and breezy without much substance from the surrounds.
Audio quality appeared to be positive for the most part. Speech usually sounded crisp and natural, but some edginess crept into the mix, and at times I felt the dialogue came across as slightly thin. No problems related to intelligibility resulted, however. Music and effects demonstrated fine clarity and they seemed distinctive, but I thought they showed some restricted dynamics. A few tunes offered deep low-end, but as a whole, bass response appeared to be somewhat lackluster. The fidelity was acceptable, but the package could have boasted a stronger punch. Overall, the audio of 13 was acceptable and that was about it.
13 comes with a surprisingly broad set of supplements. We open with two separate audio commentaries. The first features director Gary Winick, who offers a running, screen-specific chat. Mostly informative and engaging, Winick gives us a decent appraisal of his experiences. He talks about restrictions of the genre as well as his reactions t. He goes over some issues connected to the actors and the script, with an emphasis on rewrites and altered/deleted sequences. Winick indulges in some happy talk, but he also often criticizes his own work and lets us know what he’d like to change. At times Winick simply narrates the story, but he usually seems honest and interesting in this pretty good commentary.
For the second commentary, we hear from producers Donna Arkoff Roth, Susan Arnold and Gina Matthews, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Less informative than the director’s discussion, this one looks at the film from a female point of view. That makes it sporadically useful but not terribly strong. The trio mainly covers general production issues with some notes on the cast, locations, wardrobe, and script. Occasional fun remarks like the original title of Sparkle magazine - and why they changed it - appear as well. They indulge in a lot of happy talk and praise but provide a smattering of elements we don’t hear from Winick as well as some reflections on their own childhood and Eighties experiences. They manage a nice sense of enthusiasm, so while the commentary lacks much hard information, at least it goes down easily.
From there we head to the collection of 18 deleted scenes. These run between 20 seconds and four minutes, six seconds for a total of 26 minutes and 43 seconds of footage. The vast majority of these depict extensions to scenes found in the final cut of the film. A few totally new tidbits appear, like Jenna’s visit to the doctor early in the story as well as a challenge from Jenna’s young neighbor, but mainly we see smaller bits chopped form existing sequences. That makes them interesting to see but not fascinating.
For a featurette, we go to Making of a Teen Dream. It fills 18 minutes and 50 seconds with the usual movie clips, behind the scenes elements and interviews. We get notes from Winick, costume designer Susie DeSanto, and actors Jennfer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel Ball, Judy Greer, Alexandra Kyle, Christa B. Allen, and Andy Serkis. Somewhere on a level between a purely promotional piece and a more in depth program, “Dream” remains fluffy but offers some good notes. We hear a lot of happy talk about the film, which makes it drag at times. However, it also includes a fair number of entertaining anecdotes about specific sequences like the strip tease and the “Thriller” dance. We also get some good information about clothes choices. It lacks great substance but it’s fun.
I Was a Teenage Geek takes seven minutes, 59 seconds to let us know of the youthful experiences of the movie’s stars. We get notes from Garner, Greer, Ruffalo, and Ball about their teen years and also see photos of them from that period. It’s trippy and cool to watch.
A set of Bloopers lasts three minutes and 15 seconds and provides the usual roster of goofs and giggles. In the Fun & Games area we get two elements. For “The 80s Outfit Challenge”, costume designer Susie DeSanto instructs you to recreate the outfits worn by young Tom-Tom and Jenna. You need to select the right tops, skirts, shoes and accessories. With success, you get to see short behind the scenes soundbites from actors Alexandra Kyle (30 seconds) and Christa B. Allen (40 seconds). “Then and Now” has you match popular items from the Eighties and their modern equivalents. With success, we hear Judy Greer talk about how well Garner treated everyone on the set.
The Video Gallery presents a running montage of photos. We get behind the scenes stills as well as publicity shots. It lasts two minutes. A cool addition, the music videos domain presents Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” and Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”. They tie in perfectly with the movie and are great fun to see, even if the Benatar video always did - and still does - suck.
When the DVD opens, it presents a few ads. We get clips for Seinfeld on DVD, Little Black Book and White Chicks. These also appear in the Previews area, where we find additional trailers for 13 Going On 30, Hellboy, Secret Window, The Forgotten, and Anacondas.
No one will confuse 13 Going On 30 with a classic like Big, but it certainly fares better than most flicks in the genre. It succeeds largely due to an excellent cast, and unobtrusive direction keeps it simple and satisfying. The DVD presents fairly average picture and sound as well as a pretty nice set of supplements. A good date movie, 13 merits a recommendation despite lackluster visual and audio quality.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0303 Stars|| Number of Votes: 33|