April 29, 2004

13 Going on 30

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Being that I am still 13 in terms of mental maturity, it was only inevitable that I love Gary Winick’s sunny, modern day fantasy. Aimed at the Sex and the City watching, fashion magazine reading, and designer shoe obsessed demographic, 13 Going on 30 attempts to answer, by representation, the question of what it’s like to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.”

Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is 13 years old and struggling to acquire an “acceptable” place in the social hierarchy of adolescence. She dreams of joining the “Six Chicks,” pubescent femme fatales that eventually play a cruel joke on Jenna. Hurt and disappointed, Jenna makes a wish to be a successful, popular adult, unaware that she is about to wake up as Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner), the powerful 30-year-old magazine editor. Now, with no one to believe her fantastic story, Jenna must make amends with her childhood friend Matty (Mark Ruffalo), save her magazine from being shut down, and still squeeze in time for a fabulous shopping spree.

13 Going on 30 works because it exists in a Legally Blonde type world, slightly off from our own, where everything is consistently tinted an optimistic shade of bubblegum pink. Winick is giving audiences a game of “make believe” on a turf much bigger than the one we frequented as children. He also provides the perfect guide for our journey in the form of Garner, who, in a departure from the power suits and painful grimaces of Sydney Bristow, plays 13-year-old Jenna with unabashed zeal and believability. Garner is so effervescent, so childishly charming as she makes her way into a business meeting, lollipop in hand, tongue stained red from artificial flavoring. We watch with delight as she discovers cell phones for the first time, coaxes a crowd of industry snobs into the dance steps of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” attempts to hit on a dashing 13-year-old boy having dinner with his parents, and holds slumber parties for the girls in her building. Garner plunges into her role with total abandon, canon balling her way through Manhattan with youthful excitement that even I have lost.

Sure there are complaints directed towards the movie, but most of them are merely generalizations. Is it simply Big for girls? Not exactly, because Jenna actually travels from the ’80s into the future and her relationship with the opposite sex garner a PG rating at most. Are all professional women portrayed as cold-hearted and ruthless? Sure, but the film only focuses on two professional women, making that a total of two cold-hearted and ruthless females.

Before you consider me completely brainwashed by 13 Going on 30, remember that every film has its inconsistencies and that this one rates no different. For example, Jenna seems too mature at times, able to effortlessly fall into the routine of life at 30 when she is, in fact, barely a teenager. But I’m thinking at this point that it’s a bit too late to be worrying about specifics when you’ve already taken the “magic dust enables time travel” concept at face value. All right, now you can consider me brainwashed, but I couldn’t help it! Winick delivers not just a “feel good” movie but a “feel great” movie. I dare you to watch 13 Going on 30 and not come out of the theater with an irresistible urge to flash a smile. If not for Garner’s convincing performance, at least for the unapologetic tribute to the ’80s in the form of Jenna’s life, pre-transformation. The barrage of side ponytails, skirts over tights, rhinestones, and fluffy bangs made me realize how far we’ve come since the days of polyester.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Red Letter DAZE Movie Editor