When he was in high school, Judge Brendan Babish would often wish he was a thirty-year-old woman.
For some, 13 feels like it was just yesterday. For Jenna, it was.
Long after the heyday of body-switching movies (Vice Versa, Like Father, Like Son, 18 Again!) had passed, Sony Pictures attempted to revive the genre with a female take: 13 Going on 30. While the film made few forget Big, it was popular enough to get a rerelease on Blu-ray. But is it also worth a double dip?
Facts of the Case
Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner, Alias) is your typical thirteen-year-old girl. She's gawky, self-conscious, and striving for popularity. Problem is, she's not sassy enough to hang with the cool kids at her high school. Instead, her only friend is the chunky, geeky Matt Flanhaff (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count On Me). Despondent over being rejected by the popular clique, Jenna wishes to transform into a thirty-year-old, since, as she learned from a fashion magazine, thirty-year-olds are fun and flirty (er, really?).
In a bit of movie magic, Jenna indeed wakes up as a hip, hot thirty-year-old fashion magazine editor in New York City. She's got a hockey-player boyfriend, a great wardrobe; the only problem is, during the intervening blackout years, Jenna become a bitch who alienated the people who cared about her, including Matt, who became a gentle man who is scared and disgusted by Jenna. Now, the sweet thirteen-year-old Jenna in her thirty-year old body has to decide whether she wants to continue her life as a high-powered socialite, or, perhaps with the help of Matt, return to the simpler life she eschewed.
The plot, like all body switching movies, is ludicrous. But then, 13 Going on 30 doesn't just have Jenna aging seventeen years in one night; she also goes seventeen years in the future. This makes the film something of a time-travel movie as well. When Jenna first wakes up in 2004, and is baffled by an answering machine and scared by her cell phone's ring tone, it's kind of like "Unfrozen Cavemen Lawyer" recast with a thirteen-year-old from the 1980s. However, the film drops this conceit early—Jenna later seems to have no problems with computers or digital photography—which makes the plot more cohesive, but all the more ludicrous.
This is the challenge for all viewers of 13 Going on 30: dismiss the niggling incongruities in the film's plot and enjoy the ride, or turn it off, because if you can't quiet your rational mind for ninety minutes, you probably aren't going to like this movie. Though I occasionally blurted out some incredulous comment, I fell under the movie's spell, and found myself somehow moved by the sappy conclusion.
What 13 Going on 30 has going for it is its humor, which is not sharp, but fun-loving (who can resist an impromptu "Thiller" dance?); and actors who buy into this goofy spirit. Garner shows off a quirkiness and earnestness that elevates the material above mere whimsy. I'm pretty much impervious to romantic comedy pathos, but I did feel a small lump in my chest over the end credits. This is also due to Ruffalo, who's probably the most talented male actor who doesn't phone it in when he's featured in a chick flick. He's also not one of those nondescript handsome actors who are bland objects of affection. Ruffalo emotes brilliantly, so much so that you forget he's falling in love with a thirteen-year-old girl. Bostering the film's comedic front is the great Judy Greer (Arrested Development)—who plays the thirty-year-old version of Jenna's nemesis. Though Greer hasn't had a breakout role in her career yet, she brings something to the table in every character she plays.
Ultimately, 13 Going on 30 maximizes its relatively low potential, and ends up being almost as good as light comedy gets. It doesn't quite reach the high bar Big set for body-switching comedies, but it provides some chuckles, some nostalgia, and some romance. It can even be fun to snarkily point out all the plot holes. (I mean, why does thirty-year-old Jenna think making out with her hunky boyfriend is "gross"? When she was thirteen she seemed willing to be felt up by the school's football star?)
Obviously, light comedies aren't often considered showcases for high-definition pictures or great surround-sound systems. It's not surprising then that the Blu-ray release of 13 Going on 30 doesn't provide much improvement on the DVD quality. The picture quality is just alright. Throughout the film the colors never seem sharp, and there are some scenes with a slight amount of saturation. I was impressed with a few minor aspects of the picture—such as the clarity of a book jacket or the discreet amount of fuzz on a television screen—but the shots of New York City and ornate fashion offices are disappointing.
The only advantage of the sound upgrade would be for the handful of cool retro songs on the soundtrack ("Thriller," "Love Is a Battlefield," "Vienna"). The audio in terms of dialogue was clear, though there was little use of the busy New York streets for the surround effect.
Though almost all of the Blu-ray release's special features were on previous DVD versions of the film, this disc combines those from the original release and the 2006 "Fun and Flirty" edition, which is pretty cool. I can't remember any light comedy (or any film, for that matter) that has so many supplements. It may be overkill (do we really need two commentary tracks?), but there is a lot here that's manna for fans of the film.
The coolest features are the alternate beginning and ending of the film; not because they work, because they don't. Young Jenna and Matt were initially cast with different actors, but their scenes were re-shot after test audiences gave them bad notices. Watching these scenes gave me an appreciation for the replacement actors, especially young Jenna, who brings a lot more to film's introduction than the original cast members. If only Back to the Future would have a similar feature when it's released on Blu-ray (Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly).
In addition to the new beginning and ending, there are eighteen additional cut scenes. The best feature not on the "Fun and Flirty" edition are the two commentary tracks, one with director Gary Winick (Tadpole), the other with producers Susan Arnold, Gina Matthews, and Donna Ruth. The two cover similar ground, and nobody seems to have anything profound to say about the film. However, it is interesting to hear Winick contrast working on this big-budget film compared to his first feature, Tadpole.
The rest of the extras are scraping the barrel. There are loads of featurettes, including "Making of a Teen Dream: Another Take," which is the only exclusive-to-Blu-ray extra. The initial "Making of a Teen Dream" seemed to be enough pap for me, but I guess some fans wanted more. The music videos, blooper reels, and photo gallery are all about what you would expect.
13 Going on 30 is one of those films you need to buy-in on early, or just give up before losing an extra hour or so of your life. I recommend you turn off your rational mind, because this is a fun, funny, and emotional movie that's a few cuts above your average light comedy.
Though there are several offenders who have been sapping the life out of body-switching comedies, 13 Going on 30 may still rehabilitate the genre.
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