Directed by: Gary Winick
Written by: Josh Goldsmith & Cathy Yuspa
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis
A preteen wanting to skip to being an adult does not present anything new. It gives the opportunity to skip all of the awkward puberty years mixed with acne and skip school to jump into being able to do whatever you want. This cute and inspiring feature shows that time jump and the difficulties of not recognizing who you are as an adult.
Desperately trying to get into the good graces of the popular girls at school, Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) invites them over for her birthday party. The mean popular girls set Jenna up to spend seven minutes in heaven with her crush, only to desert her. Jenna then wishes just be 30-years-old, which then fast-forwards to 2004 where she lives in a luxury apartment and has attained her dream job.
Wishing to be 30-years-old seems like the age where a preteen believes they would be sophisticated. An age to look forward to when younger but often dreaded once in your 20s. The premise of the film mirrors Penny Marshall’s Big with the idea of a young person living the life of an adult. However, 13 Going on 30 ages everyone else right with Jenna so she encounters all of her peers being the same age as her. It results in some of the funnier aspects of the film. When Jenna gets older, she grows up to be portrayed by Jennifer Garner and has an adult figure and a very adult relationship with a man. At 13, she had crushes on guys but not the extent of the relationships she would have with men at the age of 30. Much like Big, this film shows that childlike wonder and ideas still work in an adult world. Sometimes, as adults, we forget what it’s like to be a child and the rampant imagination we possessed at that time. Tapping into that helps Jenna in her position at her dream job working for a magazine.
Jennifer Garner’s performance makes this film a delight because she captures that childlike amazement and wonder about adult life. The things adults take for granted can be incredibly cool and different to a young person. Not an example from the film, but getting money out of an ATM used to be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen as a child. I figured that anyone can go up to these machines for money, which my mother rightfully corrected. The world looks different when we’re younger and having the freedom of adulthood opens a whole new world for Jenna that serves part of the joy in this story. Garner brings that insecurity of a preteen being unsure about her looks and then being amazed by how beautiful she looks as an adult. Truly a great comedic performance with plenty of heart by Garner.
Along with Garner, Mark Ruffalo puts in a good performance as Jenna’s friend Matt. When younger, Matt had a big crush on Jenna and the gift he got her resulted in some magic dust that caused her wish to come true. Now as an adult, Jenna witnesses how great Matt has always been. It makes me wonder how Ruffalo has not featured in more romantic-comedy lead roles because he dials up the charm as Matt. Ruffalo and Garner make for a great pairing and they create a relationship worth rooting for.
13 Going on 30 has the proper levity and comedy that makes it endlessly rewatchable. It has a charming pair of leads, who provide some fun comedic moments. It teaches the younger demographic to not be in such a rush to grow up and teaches adults to never let go of our childlike wonder and imagination.