Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer
Director: Gary Winick
Running Time: 98 mins
13 Going On 30 is an American film about a 13 year-old girl who wishes she could escape the toil of her middle school life by being 30. The next day, she awakes to find the wish has come true, only her entire world has been completely changed.
Normally, this sort of romantic comedy aimed at pre-teenage girls is the most insufferable part of the genre, typically focusing on total trivialities and offering very little in the way of engaging storytelling. However, although I’m not saying 13 Going On 30 is a triumph of cinema, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as infuriating as I initially expected.
If there’s one part of the movie that really helps to make it a pleasant, silly watch, then it’s Jennifer Garner’s performance. Although only a select few of her co-stars (Judy Greer in particular) manage to turn in as enjoyable a performance, Garner is always the stand-out in this movie, taking on a totally preposterous concept with seemingly enough enthusiasm to make it entertaining.
Generally, she’s not given the greatest comedy to play with, and that means that, although I liked her performance, I still wasn’t rolling around on the floor laughing. Given the film’s still generic and cheesy story, however, I thought she did a great job at making the most of it, helping me to enjoy the film a lot more than I would have anticipated.
Also, this film ends on a really lovely note. As I was gearing up for a clichéd run-to-the-airport style finale, I was delighted to see how the film changed its track late on. Rather than simply trying to create laughs from the crazy situation and going for a schmaltzy ending, the film does really well to bring across a heartwarming message about always being kind to others. Yes, the eventual outcome is totally predictable, but for the final ten minutes, I didn’t really care, because I was delighted by the film’s wonderful ending.
Now, although this is definitely better than most other films from the pre-teen genre, there are still a whole lot of problems that make it less enjoyable than it could have been. As I said earlier, the comedy is pretty poor, relying too heavily on slapstick than anything else, and I was left pretty blank-faced at almost all of the alleged ‘big laughs’.
Also, the way the story jumps into action when we see the transformation from 13 to 30 year-old is very jarring. I’m not a part of the target audience for this film, and am maybe too cynical to really love the premise, but rather than instilling the emotion and confusion that this woman feels at that moment, I was left frustrated at a badly-written transition at a focal point in the story.
The majority of the script isn’t great, but it was at least engaging and lightweight. However, that point of the movie was clearly trying to show the main character’s bemusement at such a crazy event, but there was far too little about what had happened in the 17-year interim early on to care about the characters surrounding her. Although we get more insight later on, which definitely helps to reengage you in the story, that moment really doesn’t work, and given that it’s the overall premise of the movie, it’s even more disappointing to see.
Overall, I thought 13 Going On 30 was okay. It’s by no means a great film, and the mediocre comedy, story and cheesy premise are all points for frustration. However, amidst the pre-teen rom-com genre, this is definitely one of the brighter spots, and that’s why it gets a 6.7 from me.