Thirteen Things I Learned Watching 13 Going on 30
Photo by Mary Sue Gordon
1) That for lack of an actual film to remake, Hollywoods fallback position is to concoct a hybrid cannibalization of not one, but several, past successes in this case, Big, Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married and Its a Wonderful Life.
2) That the target audiences for this picture, much closer to 13 than to 30, have likely never seen or heard of the aforementioned films and, even if they have, wont object to the lack of originality.
3) That the television actress Jennifer Garner cast as Jenna Rink, the adult incarnation of a sullen teen who magically leapfrogs over the next 17 years of her life is a fine physical comedian, giving a little-girl lilt to her voice and a wiggly wobble to her walk, so that she looks and sounds like someone trapped in a body several dress sizes too big.
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4) That in the movies, its okay to run around New York City in your bedclothes acting like you dont understand why it isnt 1987 anymore. Everyone will just smile and assume youre hung over.
5) That the stuck-up, mature girls who ran your junior high school will invariably grow up to become even prissier, backstabbing Manhattan bitches.
6) That if you hang around with such a crowd for too long, you too will become just like them.
7) That, curiously, the same rule does not apply to men in their case, the preening, Brylcreem-sheen jock types will devolve into crass, beer-gutted New Jersey taxicab drivers, while the pudgy, nerdy yearbook-photographer types lose their baby fat and emerge cool bohemian East Village artists.
8) That Mark Ruffalo, here playing just such a schlub-to-stud (Matt, one of Jennas oldest childhood friends), can elevate the quality of any movie he appears in, whenever hes onscreen.
9) That the world of publishing, in which Jenna finds herself installed as the editor of a glossy, gossipy Glamour-style monthly, is one of pervasive insecurity and petty school-yard rivalries. (That one I definitely knew already.)
10) That the director of 13 Going on 30, Gary Winick, was unable to infuse this material with either the sustained screwball cadences of his earlier Tadpole or an emotional resonance comparable to that of his superb The Tic Code.
11) That any gag worth stealing once is worth stealing at least twice hence, scenes in which Garner busts a move to first Thriller, then Love Is a Battlefield, neither of which threatens to displace ones memory of Back to the Futures Marty McFly rockin the house with Johnny B. Goode.
12) That if you just learn to embrace the real, warts-and-all you, your whole life will turn out happily ever after.
13) That movies with such morals are less the wish-fulfillment fantasies of teenage girls than of middle-aged filmmakers who feel the hot, sweaty breath of Hollywood ageism at the back of their necks.
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