13 Going On 30

on April 23, 2004 by Christine James
It's the ultimate extreme makeover--a gawky teen transforms into a glamorous fashionista magazine editor overnight--but the result is just another good-looking clone without much individuality or character. "13 Going on 30," aka "'Big' with boobs," is another take on the child/adult body-switching theme that, admittedly, owes little to "18 Again!" or "Like Father, Like Son," but does rather blatantly put a "Freaky Friday" spin on the genre-defining Tom Hanks starrer and leave it at that. Hanks' 1988 blockbuster comedy centers on a boy who makes a wish to be "big," wakes up as a grown man, is forced to pretend to know what he's doing in the corporate world and winds up transforming everyone around him through his child-like enthusiasm and imagination. Ditto here, except in Manolo Blahniks.

Jenna (Christa B. Allen) is a 1987-era tweenager whose humiliation at the hands of the popular girls causes her to fervently wish that she would magically become "30, Flirty and Thriving," a lifestyle touted in her favorite magazine. With the help of some paranormal glitter, her dream comes true, with a twist: It's 2004 and Jenna has Jennifer Garner's body, a fabulous wardrobe, a hunk boyfriend and a dream job, but she's retained her 13-year-old persona. And her sense of good old-fashioned morality. From the mouths of babes, or in this case mystically displaced seventh-graders, comes eternal wisdom like "Don't be mean," "spend Christmas with your parents" and "When in doubt, play Michael Jackson's 'Thriller.'" (All of Jenna's musical predilections, not to mention her Valley Girl idioms, are truer to those of a 13-year-old from 1983, but that would make her current incarnation 34, at which point flirting and thriving are apparently all but a wistful memory.)

While Garner, with her patented non-threatening gorgeous geek appeal, is perfectly cast as a girl trapped in a woman's body, at times, amidst all her sweet smiles and wide eyes, she can't help but come off as a simpleton. All would be forgiven if Jenna's fresh perspective actually did concoct revolutionary ideas, but they seem, well, like something a 13-year-old would throw together. Kind of like this movie. Starring Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer and Andy Serkis. Directed by Gary Winick. Written by Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa. Produced by Gina Matthews, Susan Arnold and Donna Arkoff Roth. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief drug references. Running time: 97 min

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