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Published August 14th, 2004 | by Michelle Thomas

13 Going On 30 Review

Classification: 12A Director: Gary Winick Rating: 3.5/5

I was slightly worried about the premise of this film as it sounded a bit too much like a paedophile’s wet dream, but the trailer convinced me that it was worth a look. Jennifer Garner’s expressions are priceless and she seemed to be having a really good time.

Jena Rink is on the cusp of teenagerdom; a bright but geeky outsider, she longs to fit in with the cool girls at school, but always ends up hanging out with her best friend and neighbour, Matt. By offering to do their science report, Jena convinces the cool kids to come to her birthday party, but they play a cruel trick on her and Matt. Humiliated and unhappy, Jena wishes to be ‘thirty, flirty, and thriving’ as some wishing dust falls on her head. She wakes up the next morning in a strange apartment, thirty years old, editor of her favourite magazine Poise, and completely bewildered.

Who’s this naked man in her apartment? Whose apartment is this anyway? What’s that strange ringing sound coming from her bag? Jena remembers nothing about her adult life and has to start making sense of it pdq.

Naturally, her first thought is to find Matt. Now a photographer living in Greenwich Village, Matt hasn’t spoken to Jena since her thirteenth birthday party. Jena also begins to realise that she is hated and feared by most of the other employees at the magazine, and that she has become so successful by being a ruthlessly ambitious bitch who no longer sees her parents or has any real friends. After a conversation with her mother about regret, Jena sets out to make amends for her past behaviour; renewing her friendship with Matt and busting a gut at the troubled Poise.

There are two sides to the film – one, the duck out of water, straightforward comic set up of being a thirteen year old in an adult’s body, is very funny. Jennifer Garner is a superb physical comedian with excellent timing. She perfectly imitates the scrunched up ‘gross’ face and the goofy sweetness of the younger Jena and nails details like the awkward, bum-out posture of the novice heels wearer, and her sheer delight in having breasts. She looks like she’s having a blast and she takes you along for the ride.

The other, though, is less successful. The film seems to be making a point about working women which is confusing and reactionary. It suggests that for a woman to have a high-powered career she has to be a ruthless, selfish, and callous person, who has no real friends and will betray colleagues at the drop of a hat. The scenes depicting the magazine where Jena works are unconvincing, and Jena’s idea for the redesign of Poise is so bizarre that you can only imagine that the actors went along with it because it said so in the script.

But this quibble aside, 13 Going On 30 is good fun, infectiously silly, and has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. The supporting cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer and Andy Serkis, are excellent, but the film belongs to Jennifer Garner. In her first lead role, she acquits herself with aplomb. And it’s worth the price of admission alone to see Gollum doing the moonwalk.

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