13 GOING ON 30
** (out of 5)
April 23, 2004
Jennifer Garner as JENNA RINK
Mark Ruffalo as MATT FLAMHAFF
Judy Greer as LUCY
Christa B. Allen as YOUNG JENNA RINK
Andy Serkis as RICHARD
Alexandra Kyle as TOM-TOM
Studio: Sony Pictures
Directed by: Gary Winick
BY KEVIN CARR
I have a confession to make. I hate Jennifer Garner.
Well, maybe “hate” is too strong of a word. I don’t know her personally, so I can’t really say that I hate her. But I hate her acting. I think she’s wooden, condescending and all-around terrible. While I don’t watch “Alias,” I have seen a number of her film roles – from her overhyped performance in “Catch Me If You Can” to her humiliating appearance in “Daredevil” where she was out-shined by Ben Affleck in a red leather mask – and I have yet to see her actually be convincing on screen.
Oh, sure, she’s beautiful. But who isn’t in Hollywood? Beautiful people are a dime a dozen in that town. It’s the sink where all the beautiful people drain into from places like Debuke, Iowa and even my home town of Columbus, Ohio.
But beautiful doesn’t always cut it on screen, does it? No way. Especially when you’ve got an entire movie that hinges around you. What Jennifer Garner can match in terms of the beauty of A-listers like Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon, she lacks in acting ability. Now, this isn’t to say these other actresses are tremendous thespians. I love Sandra Bullock dearly, but I don’t think she can do much outside of a role like “Miss Congeniality.” But she is tailor-made for that kind of role just as Ron Pearlman was tailor-made for “Hellboy.”
When it comes to a romantic comedy like this one, a lot depends on the lead actress – and to a lesser degree the actor as well. It is painfully clear that the folks making “13 Going on 30” are desperately trying to find a vehicle for Jennifer Garner to help her break out of the bounds of television.
Jenna is a somewhat awkward girl with nothing to worry about except popularity – or rather her lack thereof. Of course, to a 13 year old girl, this can be everything, and Jenna is prepared to sell her soul just to join the “Six Chicks” gang of popular girls (which is a little too reminiscent of the popular chicks cliques from “Heathers” and “Jawbreaker” – even down to their entrance, which is a complete rip-off of “Jawbreaker”).
On her 13th birthday, Jenna wishes to be thirty years old. She falls asleep and (thanks to a pinch of magic wishing dust – a real stretch of the imagination even for a whimsical romantic comedy), she wakes up as Jennifer Garner in a high-class Manhattan apartment. Much of the first part of the film takes us through stale jokes of the fish-out-of-water child in an adult’s body. Later, she discovers that while her dream of popularity was achieved, it was not without her becoming the biggest “be-atch” in the entire town.
We’re left with the film deteriorating into a redemption story as she tries to right the wrongs she had done in the past seventeen years, including patching things up with her childhood friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo).
Like many films, the kids cast to play the teenagers out-shine their adult counterparts. And while Christa B. Allen as the 13-year old Jenna is a great little actress, she’s a bit too awkward to be believable as the prom queen in the making. And Alexandra Kyle as Tom Tom is a cute girl, her adult counterpart (Judy Greer) doesn’t have the look of a former popular princess. Greer is a great actor in her own right, and it’s embarrassing to watch her play second fiddle to Garner.
Greer’s better suited to play ugly duckling roles like Fern Mayo in the aforementioned “Jawbreaker.” In this film, it just doesn’t make sense. Matt once mentions that her character had too much plastic surgery. But why would a cute girl in her teens pay to get a big nose and big bags under her eyes. I know it’s not politically correct to criticize an actress’s appearance in a film, but they brought it up.
The rest of the supporting cast is lame, with the possible exception of Andy Serkis as Jenna’s editor – although he still was better as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings.” Mark Ruffalo’s last foray as the love interest in a romantic comedy was the putrid Gwenyth Paltrow vehicle “View From the Top.” While “13 Going on 30” is a step up, that was the only direction he could go from that stinker. Ultimately, I just don’t think Ruffalo fit the part. As a Greenwich Village artist, sure, but not as a mainstream romantic lead.
There’s not a lot of originality to this film. It draws from pre-existing (and often better) material like “Big.” And, it relies too much on Jennifer Garner. If you’re like me, you’ll find her irritating and annoying. However, if you happen to be a Jennifer Garner fanatic, you’ll probably think this is a pretty swell flick.