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13 Going On 30

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: 13 Going On 30

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Gary winick
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: April 2004
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Phil Reeves, Alex Black, Alexandra Kyle, Shana Dowdeswell, Jack Salvatore Jr., Kathy Baker, Joe Grifasi, Mary Pat Gleason, Merris Carden, Lynn Collins

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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5.  Jerry Saravia read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

By the time this movie is over, we all have a better understanding of why some relatively uninhibited 20-somethings used to wear T-shirts with the slogan "Die, Yuppie Scum!" (For the benefit of readers in foreign lands, yuppies are young urban professionals, generally people in the fields of law, publishing and finance, who on the one hand work hard and play hard, but on the other hand may tend to be snobbish and to gentrify neighborhood to the dismay of the poor tenants therein.) How does this film, directed with a swift pace by Gary Winick whose "Tadpole" is by contrast a far more intelligent and witty piece of work help teach us the inner working of homo sapien yuppica? Working with Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith's sentimental but not particularly challenging script, Winick bring home the idea that the worst thing that can happen to us is the loss of innocence as childhood gives way to calloused, self-centered adulthood. This is not to say that Yuspa and Goldsmight consider every kid sweetness and light, sugar and spice and everything nice. Judy Greer (Lucy Wyman), for example, leads a pack of mean middle-school witches intent on using young Jenna Rink (Crista B. Allen) as a doormat. Doormat ditto against the pudgy but genuinely nice Matt (Sean Marquette), who at one point spends three weeks making an elaborate, inhabited doll house for the girl who is the center of his unrequited crush.

The story begins in 1987 with Jenna, whose relationship with her parents is just fine but doomed to deteriorate in the years to come. The flat-chested 13-year-old is addicted to fashion magazines, particular one called "Poise" (a glorified "People" publication perhaps akin to "Vogue"), which convinces her that substituting big boobs for her dorky braces will mean that real life begins at 30. Wishing makes it so for Jenna (now played by Jennifer Garner). With the help of some angel dust, she finds herself with a lithe body inhabiting lush digs her New York Ranger boyfriend, a complete stranger to her, appearing half naked while in a future scene he embarrasses her by performing a strip tease. She quickly finds out that she's an editor at the very "Poise" magazine and that her foul friend Lucy Wyman works in the same capacity in an office next door.

Her life really changes, however, when she discovers that her nerdy childhood friend, Matt Flamhaff (now played by Mark Ruffalo), has blossomed into a cool guy, slimmed-down body, and a creative job in photography. As she works on her career at "Poise," she is now distracted by thoughts of the new Matt, due to be married in a few weeks, but not to her. Why not? In her rise to publishing heaven, she has discarded her old pals together with all the innocent values that good little children are said to possess.

Movie-goers will see obvious parallels between "13 Going on 30" and films spotlighting similar fantasies. In Penny Marshall's "Big" (1988), Tom Hanks inhabits the role of a 12-year-old who grows suddenly into a man of 30, while Gary Nelson's "Freaky Friday" last year pulls a mother-and-daughter switcheroo. Brett Ratner's "Family Man" highlights the Nic Cage character as a yuppie with no emotional ties, wondering whether he'd have been better off staying in New Jersey with the love of his life in a smart, imaginative tale that is very much a part of this exploited subgenre.

Notwithstanding the well-paced plot and a good sound track particularly the use of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" to illustrate a show-stopping dance and Pat Benatar's prescient song "Love Is a Battlefield" which sums up what Jena has lost, Jennifer Garner, whose not particularly appealing looks belie her effervescent personality, is no Tom Hanks. In fact cannot compare in comic depth with Barbara Harris or Jodie Foster in Gary Nelson's original 1977 "Freaky Friday." Save for the dance scene which parallels Penny Marshall's "Big" view of a 30-year-old dancing on an elongated piano keyboard at FAO Schwartz, "13" is predictable, thanks in part to the presence of so many other features of this nature. We are told that Jena has spoken rarely to her parents since she made a splash at the magazine and that she snobbishly ignores her neighbors as she proves when a 13-year-old next door is stunned to be spoken to by Jena for the first time. The icy descent is insufficiently delineated, the show-steal belonging not to Ms. Garner's work but to the talented, laid-back performance of Mark Ruffalo.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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