13 Going on 30
(Gary Winick, 2004)
This is an interesting movie you've got here, Sandy. The opening scenes are impressively cringe-worthy (in a good way), distilling every worst high school fear into a few brief moments. Once Jenna's birthday wish is granted, I found myself marveling at the ingenuity of the premise — specifically, how it merges the high concept of Big
with that of Rip Van Winkle
. Jenna awakes not only in an adult body but also seventeen years in the future — into the information age. The comedic and thematic potential of that dual concept is off the charts, and I was super eager to see what the film would do with it.
But then, something weird happens. The script sort of ignores its own premise. There’s one scene early in act two where Jenna is baffled by the ring of a cell phone, but, after that, the leap from 1987 to 2004 rarely presents any obstacles. She adapts too quickly. As such, the film owes less to a fantasy movie like Big
than it does to a less fantastical movie like Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
(or even Regarding Henry
), where a character struggles with a job because they don't have the experience they claimed they had (or lost their memory). The script rarely deals with its own core ideas and instead breezes past what I would have thought would be the story's most interesting moments. Ruffalo’s character, for example, is too quick to accept the fact that Jenna's jumped forward seventeen years into the future. And even then, it doesn't interest him at all. He's just like, "Oh, really? Huh. Okay. Anyway, I should go because you're pretty and I'm engaged." (I remain uncomfortable with the classic romantic comedy lack of empathy for the off-screen heartbreak of the non-leads.) Similarly, Jenna, though excited to drink alcohol, isn't at all curious about sex and other possibilities of adulthood; but she's still ready to get married. That's odd to me, to say the least.
I think my favorite scene is when Garner flirts with the boy in the diner. That moment alone hints at everything I hoped the film would be. I think it's also one of Garner's best scenes. She rarely felt like a thirteen year-old in a grown-up body to me, but the diner scene was a great exception.
Criticisms aside, I still had a fun time with 13 Going on 30
. As I might have mentioned previously, I think a documentary of you watching the movie together with your daughter would have been better suited to my tastes, but what can you do?Heartache to heartache.