13 Going on 30

(2004) ** 1/2 Pg-13
97 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: Gary Winick. Cast: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Alex Black.

13 Going on 30 (or, as it's unofficially known, "Big With Breasts") trots out modern cinema's hazing ritual for up-and-coming performers: playing a child in an adult body. Since Mary Rodgers' novel Freaky Friday hit in the early 70s, Hollywood has put out a glut of kids-stuck-in-adult-bodies movies (many of which also allow kids to play adults). Following the 1976 film Freaky Friday, we had Like Father, Like Son, Big, Vice Versa, and 18 Again! in quick succession, Robin Williams as Jack, and within a year of each other, a Freaky Friday remake and 13 Going on 30, to name but the ones which leap to mind.

So 13 Going on 30 wins no points for novelty, unless you count Andy "Gollum" Serkis moonwalking and, well, why wouldn't you? Essentially, the film is a vehicle for rising star Jennifer Garner (Daredevil, TV's Alias), and her charming energy earns the this standard-fare romantic comedy enough goodwill for a passing grade. Garner plays Jenna Rink, a totally-'80s, suburban thirteen-year-old who, after a run-in with a bag of wishing dust ("I want to be thirty—thirty, and flirty, and thriving"), finds herself a fully-developed, apparent thirty-year-old traveling in elite New York circles.

As a child, Jenna (Christa B. Allen) flunked the social test of throwing herself a birthday party; after the popular "Six Chicks" clique rejects her, she turns around and thoroughly destroys Matt, the sweet boy who has a crush on her. This traumatic event spawns Jenna's magical conversion, which proves to be the long-way-around to convincing her that she made a big mistake on that fateful birthday. Want to bet she'll get a second chance?

In "adulthood," Jenna's a highly-placed editor on her favorite fashion magazine, Poise. Freaked out and in need of moral support, Jenna seeks out Matt, who has grown out of his pudgy awkwardness and into his coolness. Still a disciple of cool bands (Talking Heads, the Clash) and cool movies (a Blue Velvet poster hangs in his apartment), the now-hunky Matt has turned his hobby, photography, into a burgeoning career. Before long, Jenna has taken notice, and the chase is on. Unfortunately, Jenna's full-grown childhood rival is underfoot every step of the way as Jenna tries to win her man and save the magazine from going into the toilet.

Winick's movie--scripted by Cathy Yuspa & Josh Goldsmith and Niels Mueller--is as naive as its young heroine, but also as good-natured. Though technically aimed at a double-demographic of tweens and Gen-Xers, 13 Going on 30 makes more sense as a high-school reunion nostalgia trip cum celebration of being young at heart than it does as a cautionary tale for young teens, but then, the young'uns get to dream of being Garner. Gen-Xers will thrill again to Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar, squeal at the spectacle of nightclubbers performing the original choreography of "Thriller," and swoon at the fantasies of turning back time for their own second chances.

Ruffalo is typically good, cutting the syrup with his indie-bred understatement, but this is Garner's show, and she proves ready for it. When the script (frequently) lacks conviction, Garner does something convincingly to draw the viewer back in to the movie's surreality. When she instinctively waggles her bosom to convince Ruffalo to take the dance floor, the moment is enough to make all ages and sexes fall in love. Garner's "going on" to the next level.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 1/20/2009

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In its Blu-ray debut, 13 Going on 30 doesn't show a day of its five-year age. Bright and colorful as it should be, the image shows fine detail the DVD doesn't reveal, deep blacks and spot-on contrast. In the audio department, Sony delivers a typically strong Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that's more than up to the task of replicating the film's theatrical soundscape.

In bonus features, there's a standard-issue director's commentary by Gary Winick and a superfluous (but why not?) producers' commentary by Donna Arkoff Roth, Susan Arnold and Gina Matthews.

Bonus footage includes an "Alternate Beginning & Alternate Ending" (11:35, SD), eighteen "Deleted Scenes" (27:10, SD), and "Bloopers" (3:16, SD).

"Making of a Teen Dream" (18:52) is a decent behind-the-scenes featurette, including set footage and interviews with Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Samuel Ball, Judy Greer, Winick, Alexandra Kyle, Christa B. Allen, Andy Serkis, and costume designer Susie DeSanto.

"Making of a Teen Dream: Another Take" (7:37, SD) adds a few more angles, with comments from producers Donna Roth, Gina Matthews, and Susan Arnold; Garner; Winick; Ball; Ruffalo; Greer; and Allen.

The most fun by far comes from the featurette "I Was a Teenage Geek" (8:01, SD), in which Garner, Greer, Ruffalo, and Ball confess their darkest high school secrets (OK, maybe not, but they do share embarrassing photos).

"Fashion Flashback: Into the '80's" (6:50, SD) is a fluff piece looking at fashion so old it's new again, with models Bethany Belcher, Brittany Johnson, Virginia Lopez, Grace Lee, Valuable Vintage author Elizabeth Mason, stylists Emily Current and Meritt Elliott, make-up artist Chelsea Behrens, and hairstylist Rosemarie Valverde.

Vintage '80s Music Videos are a scream. Gotta love both of these: "Pat Benatar: 'Love Is a Battlefield'" (5:21, SD) and "Rick Springfield: 'Jessie's Girl'" (3:17, SD).

Last up is a "Video Gallery" (2:04, SD) montage of production stills set to the film's score, and of course, the disc is BD-Live enabled for a bit more added value.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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