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Blu-ray Review: 13 Going on 30

Though it may be a little clichéd, sometimes sitting down to watch a movie is just a "feel-good" experience. The movie may offer little that is new – in fact it could simply be a very slight reworking of an earlier film – but the characters, or the songs, or the overall aesthetic make one smile. One only need look at the Blu-ray release of 13 Going on 30 for the perfect example of such a film.

Directed by Gary Winick (Bride Wars), the film stars Jennifer Garner as Jenna Rink, a newly minted 30-year-old. Originally a 13-year-old girl, Rink experiences the usual sort of torment common to teenagers, which prompts her to wish she were 30, and, presto, she wakes up the next morning and 17 years have passed. Rink finds herself the editor of a fashion magazine in dire straits.

Over the course of the film, Jenna has to navigate her new world. She learns about the backstabbing community in which she lives, that she hasn't been a very good person over the course of the 17 years she can't remember, and that perhaps, given the chance, she would have done things very differently.

The basic plot of the film is incredibly similar to the Tom Hanks' starrer, Big. The main difference between that movie and 13 Going on 30 is that Jenna wakes up 17 years later in her life (and in the world), not that she is simply one morning older while everything else has remained static (as was the case in Big). It is, to be sure, a minor difference in plot points, and the substitution of a girl as the main character rather than using a boy doesn't lead 13 Going on 30 to explore any new ground.

However, whatever its failings in originality, 13 Going on 30 is an incredibly fun film to watch. Garner is bright, perky, and wholly believable as a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old body. From her facial expression, to her attitude, to the way she carries herself, Garner manages to exude "young teen." In a movie that would otherwise seem like a poor retread of old territory, Garner manages to keep the film fresh and bubbly.

Starring alongside Garner are Mark Ruffalo as Matt Flamhaff, 13-year-old Jenna's friend who drifted apart from her over the years and Judy Greer as Lucy Wyman, Jenna's co-worker and best friend. Both – along with Andy Serkis, who plays Jenna's boss – turn in good performances, but 13 Going on 30 is Garner's movie from start to finish.

The new Blu-ray release of the film contains the standard deleted and extended scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a blooper reel along with the music video for "Love is a Battlefield" and "Jessie's Girl," both of which feature in the plot. There is nothing really engaging about any of the behind-the-scenes pieces, and the one on '80s fashion is instantly off-putting with its interviewing of teen models. The alternate beginning and ending scenes included on the Blu-ray provide a wonderful illustration of just why they weren't used, from the acting to the plot points that didn't make the final film. However, perhaps the most silly of the special features is the one in which the beautiful, rich, and popular stars of the film try to explain how they really, really were geeks and unloved in high school. There is little more off-putting than that sort of discussion.

In high definition, the '80s colors really come alive on screen, making one wonder what exactly people were thinking with their fashion choices in that decade and question why a retro return to the decade might ever be viewed as a good idea. As with so many romantic comedies, while 5.1 channel sound is present in the piece, there are few moments when one recognizes the need, or has an overwhelming desire, for the rear speakers to be put into play.

13 Going on 30 is not a perfect film, far from it in fact. Plotlines, like 30-year-old Jenna's boyfriend, are dropped, and even if one accepts the impossibility of 17 years worth of amnesia, all that follows is highly implausible. Even so, its bright spirit, peppy tone, and Garner's Jenna Rink more than compensate for any flaws in the work. One won't find any amazing truths in the story, but a good time will almost certainly be had watching it all unfold.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/kevin_gustafson Kevin Gustafson

    Good review. 13 Going on 30 is great because it’s about a big though simple truth. We all wish we could go back in time and reverse the mistakes we made now that we’re older and know what we should have done. Jenna does that which makes it a great fantasy movie. I think that’s what’s different from Big which was more about wishing to do what you want.

    Sounds like the special features are gender specific. I might try and get this because of the story and Jennifer Garner’s acting. I’m afraid of the store clerk giving me a weird look though.