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13 Going on 30 (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Directors commentary; Producers commentary; Photo montage; Blooper reel; 'I was a Teenage Geek' featurette; 'The Making of a Teen Dream' featurette; 'Making of a Teen Dream: Another Take' featurette. Deleted scenes; Theatrical trailer; Pat Benatar's 'Love Is A Battlefield' music video; Rick Springfield's 'Jessie's Girl' music video.

AS WISH fulfilment fantasies go, wanting to be 30-years-old was never one of them. Indeed, most twenty-somethings spend the latter part of that decade dreading the advent of the big ‘three zero’.

As a result, new romantic comedy, 13 Going on 30 is already stretching credibility even before it sets off on its sugar-coated journey of teenage angst turned womanhood anxiety.

Designed as a star vehicle for TV star, Jennifer Garner (of Alias fame), the film immediately feels like a ‘chick flick’ makeover of the Tom Hanks film, Big, not to mention previous body-swapping comedies, such as Freaky Friday.

That it also contains elements of Pretty Woman, Mean Girls and just about every romantic comedy you could ever think of should also provide viewers with some idea of what to expect.

But then this is more about installing Garner as America’s latest sweetheart, than it is about bringing anything new to the rom-com genre - which is a shame, given the quality of director, Gary Winick’s debut feature, Tadpole.

Having established herself as a star in the making with Alias, and then stealing Ben Affleck’s thunder in Dare-Devil (and thereby earning her Elektra character its own shot at a franchise), Garner now seeks to soften her image.

The result is a hit-and-miss affair, that fails to convince that Garner is cut out for this sort of thing.

The film begins as 13-year-old Jenna Rink (Christa B Allen) is preparing to celebrate her birthday with overweight best friend, Matt (Sean Marquette), and trying to escape the attentions of her ‘dorky parents’, in order to gain the acceptance of the coolest girls in school and the cute sports jock she has a crush on.

Things go pair-shaped, however, and she lashes out at Matt, before wishing to be 30 and successful - a wish that is granted the very next day, when she wakes up to find all her desires granted.

The only trouble is, the older, wiser Jenna is now an image-obsessed fashion magazine editor, with a penchant for back-stabbing and partying, who has cut both her parents and her former best friend out of her life - and the 13-year-old trapped in the 30-year-old’s body has no memory of the 17 years in between.

The ensuing coming-of-age tale finds Jenna enlisting the help of Matt (now played by Mark Ruffalo) in a bid to right the wrongs of her new, bitchy existence and subsequently falling in love, despite the fact that he is betrothed to a weather presenter.

Viewers can probably guess the outcome, even if the path does occasionally throw in the odd surprise.

Yet, the biggest problem with 13 Going on 30, is not so much the predictability factor, or the sickly sweet excess, but rather the awkward performance from Garner in the star role.

She looks terrific, and has a certain sweetness about her, but she occasionally seems to be trying too hard and seems to be having trouble tapping into her teenage roots.

It’s only when matters become serious, and she is forced to act her age, that both Garner and the film work better, only to be undone, once again, by the sugar-coated finale.

The better performance comes from Ruffalo, who brings the same sort of shy, easygoing charm he displayed in My Life Without Me and You Can Count on Me to proceedings.

His emotionally-scarred, yet amicable photographer, injects an emotional honesty that is sadly lacking from the rest of the story, and he strikes some fairly decent sparks off Garner into the bargain.

Also on the plus side, is the cheesy 80s soundtrack, which has fun with the likes of Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl, Pat Benatar's Love Is a Battlefield and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, as well as the odd set-piece, such as Garner’s attempts to pull a boy.

But there’s no escaping the fact that this is strictly for the girls only, the majority of whom may even tire at some of the film’s weaker contrivances.

Turning 30, it seems, is just as bad, on-screen, as it is off!

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