13 Going on 30

Sometimes a dull movie can be enjoyable because the personality and charisma of the star makes it so. 13 Going on 30 is such a case. It is the latest variation on a pretty familiar theme, yet despite the predictability, the casting of Jennifer Garner makes the film surprisingly enjoyable. Garner is clearly a star on the rise in Hollywood, and this movie is nothing more than a vehicle to spotlight her comedic talents, previously unseen, and attracting a sizable contingent of young female fans. Her action talents were on display in Daredevil, and every week on ABC's Alias. People have such high hopes for her that when a network recently aired Pearl Harbor, they announced her name in the commercials although her role was fairly minimal. Garner (Catch Me If You Can) easily glides through 13 Going on 30 with unbridled enthusiasm and ebullience. She looks like she is having such a good time that one cannot help but smile along with her. Even her actions, the way she walks, carries herself, or even looks around or at people is full of life.

The plot is another story. Young Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is on the sidelines of school popularity. She longs to hang with the in-crowd, but her best friend is the chunky Matt (Jack Salvatore Jr., Donnie Darko). After a disastrous thirteenth birthday party, she wishes that she was thirty years old, and then wakes up to find herself Jennifer Garner, thirty years old and really hot. Rink is baffled at everything around her. She has "boobs," a naked guy is in the shower, and she doesn't recognize anything around her. She soon realizes that her wish came true, and goes about living life to the fullest. First, this means finding her childhood friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, In the Cut). She doesn't know that they had a pretty big falling out when they were still kids. Rink also realizes that she is one of the editors at Poise magazine, one of her favorite magazines when she was a kid. She also discovers that her best friend Lucy (Judy Greer, Adaptation, The Wedding Planner) was one of her biggest antagonizers during her childhood.

It's an understatement to say that Jenna is completely lost. The world is a different place, but she goes about it innocently, and, as expected, all of the things she does are just right. Everybody around her thinks that she is just acting a little weird. Moreover, in her state of near-naivete, all that she does turns out good. Decisions she makes at Poise are the right ones. Her hastily thrown together ensembles spark the interest of others. And her taste in men causes her to turn away toward her hockey-player boyfriend and turn back towards the now hunky Matt, who just happens to be a professional photographer. Then, the real world begins to rear its ugly head. What started as a dream come true takes a more realistic term. Jenna learns more about the person that she became, and she doesn't like it. She abandoned her friends, ignores her family, walks over coworkers, and is pretty much all around an unsavory character. And, with the fairy-tale like nature of 13 Going on 30, now is her chance to make things right. The story, written by Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith (What Women Want) and Niels Mueller (Tadpole) still keeps things sunny, and glosses over some of the more serious things that the story could touch upon (what with a thirteen year old suddenly finding herself an adult), but that's not the point of the film.

13 Going on 30 is about a little girl who gets everything she wants, only to learn that everything she wanted may not have been best. It's a shiny happy movie where Jennifer Garner can dance around, be happy, and try on lots of clothes. Eighties music plays all over the place, and people can laugh at the things that Jenna doesn't know about in today's world. Director Gary Winick (Tadpole, The Tic Code) keeps things on a light, superficial level that may not approach reality, but keeps things fun. Yes, 13 Going on 30 is Big, and a little bit of Freaky Friday, and yes, it is pretty predictable, but with Garner as lead, throwing herself (a few times literally) into the role of Jenna, it's actually pretty fun going along for the ride.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief drug use.

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