Neil Young’s Film Lounge – 13 Going On 30

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

13 GOING ON 30

4/10

USA 2004 : Gary WINICK : 97 mins

1987: unhappy teenager Jenna (Christa B Allen) wishes she could skip the rest of adolescence and move straight to fully-fledged adulthood. When she wakes up the next morning, 17 years have duly passed: she’s now a 30-year-old (Jennifer Garner) with a high-flying job on a Manhattan magazine. Inside, however, she’s still 13 – unsurprisingly, complications ensue. This uninspired re-hash of 80s hit Big did bafflingly well at the US box-office: sufficiently so, in fact, to make an instant movie-star of Garner – previously best known via nonsensical spy TV-show Alias. Having shown signs of comic flair as a putupon girlfriends in 2001’s guiltiest pleasure Dude, Where’s My Car?, the appealing, attractive and talented Garner clearly deserves her overdue, “overnight” success.

But she also deserves much better material than she gets in this disappointingly lazy misfire, so sloppily written (by Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa) and blandly directed by Winick (Tadpole) that it feels much longer than its alleged 97 minutes. Equally ill-served are the miscast Mark Ruffalo (as the adult version of Jenna’s childhood friend Matt), Judy Greer (as her backstabbing “best friend” Lucy) and Britain’s own Andy Serkis – a very long way from Gollum in the underwritten role of Jenna’s flamboyant boss Richard.

While nobody expects Loachian grit from such fluffy fare, the script could surely have keep one foot in some kind of recognisable reality: the film’s idea of the New York publishing scene is laughable at best, and the mechanism by which Jenna wishes herself forward (and, ultimately, back) in time is conveniently mysterious “fairy dust.” The writers haven’t quite thought the consequences of Jenna’s actions through properly – the dodgy issue of her sexuality is left hazy, and the laborious “happy-ending” finale is more than a little rough on the hapless Matt, not to mention his fiancee Arlene (Marcia DeBonis). It’s difficult to work out just who 13 Going on 30 is aimed at: undemanding teenagers, or older viewers pondering the roads not taken. But anyone who can actually remember the mid-80s will be bemused by the soundtrack’s selection of pop hits – all of which hail from 1983.

26th July, 2004
(seen 3rd July : Vue, Leicester : CinemaDays event press show)

by Neil Young