One of my favorite movies of all time is
1988’s Big, starring Tom Hanks. I own it on DVD and have watched it about forty
bazillion times. So when I saw a preview for 13 Going On 30—a new flick starring
Jennifer Garner that seemed very similar to Big—I put it on my “must-see” list.
Jenna Rink is a 13-year old who isn’t really enjoying adolescent life.
(But then, who does?) She’s unpopular, a bit of a dork, and only has one real friend:
her next-door neighbor, Matt. After an embarrassing incident at her thirteenth birthday
party, Jenna frantically wishes to be grown-up and successful.
morning, Jenna wakes up to find her wish has come true—she’s magically transformed into
her adult self. After the initial panic, she realizes that she’s living the life she’s
always wanted—she’s gorgeous, popular, an editor at a big fashion magazine, and she’s
dating a hockey player from the New York Rangers. Of course, she has no memory of how
she got to this point in her life. As she tries to discover who she is by going through
old yearbooks and talking with people, she learns that she doesn’t like the person she’s
become. It turns out that 30-year-old Jenna is selfish, conniving, and manipulative.
She’s no longer friends with her childhood friend, Matt, she doesn’t speak to her
parents, and she’s heartless when dealing with people in her career. Jenna soon realizes
that her wish may be permanent and goes about trying to make things right.
The concept of the film is cute enough, but the execution is a little
shaky. Many times throughout the film, new information is introduced, but then the movie
doesn’t do anything with that information or explain why things are a certain way (for
example, Jenna learns early on that she’s not in contact with her parents, but it’s never
clear why that is). Also, it’s very obvious that the movie is based on Big. I
expected that. What I didn’t expect were direct rip-offs of the Tom Hanks film.
This movie took some of its gags directly from its predecessor—from checking out new
“adult” body parts, to standing up in a limousine, to not knowing what to do with hors
d’ourves at a company cocktail party. And these jokes didn’t work as well this time
around. With the exception of a very funny scene involving a cell phone and a few other
gems, the movie had very few original gags—which is a shame, because the movie could have
been great if they’d come up with some more original material. Another problem: because
of its close relationship to Big, this film is almost excruciatingly predictable.
The movie isn’t very long—about 90 minutes or so—but the pacing seemed
off to me. The first hour or so moved almost too quickly, and then the last half hour
really seemed to drag. And the highlight of the film—a group Thriller dance at a
company party—occurred less than an hour into the story, so it all seemed to go downhill
I will say this: if nothing else, 13 Going On 30 was
cute. So if you enjoy light, fluffy movies without much substance—and don’t mind a few
plot holes here and there—then it’s worth checking out. But I’d wait for the