Published Apr 01, 2004With a familiar concept, Alias super-spy Jennifer Garner makes the most of her comedic debut in the grown-teen charmer 13 Going On 30. She plays Jenna Rink who, at her 13th birthday party, is frustrated with the limitations of young adulthood that seem insurmountable. While "magic dust" sprinkles over her, she wishes that she could just be 30 years old and get it over with. Behold, the next morning she wakes up to find that 17 years have passed, she's a prominent New York magazine editor, she's dating a New York Ranger and she's turned into a total bitch.
13 Going On 30 might as well be a remake of the breakthrough Tom Hanks vehicle Big: young, naive person believes age is what's holding them back. Following a pseudo-magic intervention, their wish comes (temporarily) true just long enough for them to appreciate the wonders of their young adulthood and return to normal.
Since the premise offers few surprises, 13 Going On 30 relies on Garner to carry this admittedly creepy premise (after all, despite Garner flexing her impressive pipes, she's still supposed to be a 13-year-old girl waking up beside a 30-something athlete "boyfriend"). And she pulls it off quite impressively, transforming her karate kicks into slapstick pratfalls and cultural riffs on Eminem and her childhood love of Michael Jackson. Her naiveté extends to matters of sex as well she quickly dismisses her buff boy-toy and tracks down her childhood best friend, played by Mark Ruffalo. He's engaged to someone else, making the inevitable flirtation all the more safe and innocent.
And so 13 Going On 30 continues trotting through its paces; Jenna is initially delighted at her newfound freedom, then shocked at the manipulative person she transformed into through her high school years; her "true" friendships have disappeared into a cadre of cads and fellow bitches; and she finds her career machinations to be inappropriately Machiavellian. Of course she's given the chance to make good and right all these "wrongs." Its rote conclusion might come across as too much icing on an already sugar-loaded cake, but what do you expect? That's the birthday party you've been invited to. (Columbia TriStar)