Judge Joel Pearce says it ain't easy being Jennifer Garner.
A comedy for the kid in all of us.
The previous edition of 13 Going on 30 was handled very well on the site already, and I agree with almost everything that Appelate Judge DeWees said. The real question before the court is whether another edition of this fine comedy is necessary, or whether this is just an opportunity to take advantage of brand new scented DVD case technology.
Facts of the Case
Jenna Rinck (Jennifer Garner, Alias) has not only the misfortune of becoming a teenager during the era of big hair and stretch pants, but also the burden of unpopularity in the dead center of the "me" decade. She does have one good friend, the boy from next door named Matt (Mark Ruffalo, Collateral), though she would much rather get in with the cool crowd, led by the two-faced Lucy (Judy Greer, Elizabethtown). If only she could skip those awkward teenage years and become a trendy 30 year old.
Her wish comes true during a disastrous birthday party, and Jenna awakes to find herself 17 years older and an editor for one of New York's most prestigious fashion magazines. It's everything she ever dreamed of, and she is still working with Lucy. She quickly realizes, though, that the life she dreamed about comes with a lot of challenges, and that being attractive and independent aren't necessarily the most important things in life. In fact, she's going to have to get creative if she wants to keep her life from going completely down the drain.
If you've been reading my reviews regularly, you probably already know how I feel about ugly duckling stories. To me, creating a whole genre that promises preteen girls that everything would be perfect if they were only hot, perpetuates the lie that physical beauty is still the only value of women in our society. As a high school teacher, I see the result of these lies daily in my classes. We are raising a generation of girls who haven't learned about the struggles women faced over the past century, and don't understand that they don't have to be judged solely on appearance. Blaming the media for our failure to evolve seems too easy, but every time I watch a film like The Princess Diaries, it drives home how deeply this message is embedded in our stories.
And that's why 13 Going on 30 rocks. It is the antithesis of the ugly ducking story, a fresh and funny deconstruction of the shallow tripe that we have seen so many times. Jenna learns that she has grown up to be beautiful, and at first glance she believes that all of her dreams have come true. Her beauty and power have led her to her dream job, a handsome boyfriend, a swanky apartment, and all the popularity she can handle. As she uncovers more about her new identity, she realizes that she has also become the kind of person that she would never want to be. She discovers that she is also a conniving mercenary, and that her rejection of her only friend has led to a series of shallow, self-serving relationships that gradually turned her into a backstabbing bitch.
In other words, 13 Going on 30 is a mainstream romantic comedy made after 1990 that has a genuine moral message. Popularity means nothing if it requires one to become a bad person. Beauty only means anything if it is supported by kindness and sincerity. If you do let yourself become the kind of person you don't want to be, there are real consequences: It's impossible to suddenly turn your life around and regain your innocence. I wouldn't mind seeing more comedies with this level of thoughtfulness.
I do also need to gush a little about Jennifer Garner's superb performance. She manages to make her performance completely convincing at every moment. Playing a 13 year old girl transported into a woman's body, she moves and talks like a 13 year old girl. As the film continues, she becomes more comfortable with this new body and life. It's a subtle performance, a rare commodity in the genre. The other performances are great as well, but it's Garner that makes it a total success.
So, is it worth grabbing the Fun and Flirty Edition of 13 Going on 30? It does have a bit more going for it than the bubblegum-scented case (I'm not joking), though the video transfer hasn't been improved since the last edition. It is generally sharp and clean, though I found a few compression artifacts, including some bleeding from the reds. The sound transfer is stronger, with good use of the LFE when the music kicks in, and some depth in the surrounds.
This edition has an alternate beginning and ending, which covers all of the scenes with the younger Jenna. Many of the young actors are different, and it offers a very different take on the beginning of the film. I will say this: 13 Going on 30 wouldn't have been as well received with this discarded beginning. Many of the ideas are present, but it does a lousy job of setting up the film to come. It's interesting to study how much impact a few short scenes can have. There are also 15 deleted and extended sequences, mostly cut for good reason. Rounding out the discarded footage is a reel of bloopers.
Digging deeper into the disc, there are a number of other extras. Also new in this edition is the freakishly shallow featurette discussing retro '80s fashion with models. Skip it. The production featurette is pretty light, but it's a lot better. "I Was a Teenage Geek" is even better, as the cast members reveal their own embarrassing histories. The less I say about the included games, the better. There are also a pair of '80s music videos, for those so inclined.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are only two things added to the previous special edition. Without some extreme transfer improvement, I don't think that warrants another release. In fact, opening this case smells like bubblegum—and a cheap money grab on the part of Sony.
If you already own 13 Going on 30, don't be fooled by the Hollywood marketing machine. Feel comforted by the fact that you have a fine edition of a great film. If you don't have either, grab whichever is cheaper, unless you're really excited about the bubblegum scent. It is a film worth owning, though, one way or another.
Though the film is still completely innocent, Sony will be subjected to 10 hours a day of bad '80s music until they smarten up and start making proper Special Editions.
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