I love being surprised by a movie. I was expecting 13 Going on 30 to be your typical, light-hearted romantic comedy with little or no inspiration, but what I discovered was a film with energy, warmth, and just enough laughs for it to stand with its head above the crowd of other recent films in the same genre. Sure, the story's outcome is never really in doubt, but the fun in this one is found in the journey.
The film opens in the fashion disaster era known as the 80s. Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is a girl who craves to be a member of the cool group, but she's relegated to the ranks of geekdom. Her friend, Matt (Jack Salvatore Jr.), doesn't help her self-esteem too much since he's even more of a geek. All she wants is to be cool, but when her 13th birthday party ends in disaster, she wishes she could be "thirty, flirty, and thriving."
She of course gets her wish and flashes forward to become herself as a 30-year-old (Garner), a woman who has everything she ever wanted. But don't worry, the highly-contagious good-natured feeling Jenna expels—first when she's thrust into her shocking new role and again as her free-spirit begins to make changes in her older counterpart—makes suspending your disbelief with the premise particularly easy.
Jennifer Garner is definitely the key to this film's success. Her youthful exuberance creates a tone that is impossible to ignore. Her energy all but pored from the screen, and her happy, bubbly personality spread to me to the point where I couldn't help but have a good time. Even though there were only a few moments that caused me to burst into laugher, there was a general uplifting feel to the entire movie.
While romance and love play a key role in this film, friendship and a life of happiness take center stage. When Jenna reconnects with Matt (Mark Ruffalo), it's just as much about regaining a good friend as it is about finding love. And Jenna's exploits at work are just as enjoyable as her adjustment to love at 30, as her youthful attitude and naiveté add plenty of humor to the storyline. Plus, because everything is seen through the eyes of a teenager, the "morals of the story" never seem forced. Instead, they develop naturally—and comically—as Jenna experiences the world through the eyes of an adult.
13 Going on 30 is a surprisingly fun movie that should be shared with friends and loved ones. The good feelings are contagious, making this a film that can be enjoyed by young and old alike.
Columbia Pictures presents 13 Going on 30 in 1.85 anamorphic widescreen. This presentation is quite nice. Colors are bright and vibrant, and the image is crisp and clean throughout. Although there are a few scenes that are a tad soft or that show a bit of edge enhancement, these moments are never bothersome and shouldn't be an issue to anyone who isn't scrutinizing the image.
There's nothing unexpected about the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. It's a relatively quiet, romantic comedy, so it won't really give your speakers a workout, but it certainly does a fine job for the material. Dialog is well centered and comes through crisp and clear. The rears are rarely used for effects, but they do provide decent ambiance. The music is the highlight of the audio track as it provides brief glimpses into a more powerful sound.
This DVD also features a French audio track and French subtitles.
THE BONUS FEATURES
This DVD is packed with surprisingly entertaining bonus features. The first of which is a audio commentary by director Gary Winick. I enjoyed listening to him detail how the movie was developed and what it was like shooting in New York and working with Jennifer Garner, but hearing the director discuss the differences between shooting an independent film and shooting a big budget picture was really the heart of the commentary for me.
A second, not quite as good audio commentary features producers Gina Matthews, Donna Arkoff-Roth, and Susan Arnold. While it was interesting to hear what their roles were on the film and their experiences on the way, I found myself less involved with their comments.
While the making of 13 Going On 30 featurette is basically comprised of the key players praising one another, I found myself enjoying the talking heads as they describe the fun the entire crew had on the set. This won't go down as the best behind-the-scenes bonus feature, but it does have a nice, light-hearted tone that compliments the film and truly makes it seem that the film was a delight to work on. The shorter "I Was A Teenage Geek" featurette is all but an extension of the making-of bonus item that showcases some interesting pictures of the cast in high school.
The 18 deleted scenes are mostly just extended takes of various shots in the film that were cut for obvious reasons. The blooper reel isn't particularly funny, but it does show, once again, what life was like on the set. The video gallery is just a bunch of photos that move across your screen with a little music thrown in for flare.
There are also a couple of games on the DVD that aren't really even interesting diversions. After about three minutes of playing The 80's Outfit Challenge, a game with an object of putting together a perfect 80's outfit, I found myself wondering why the heck I was still wasting my time. "Then and Now" is even worse. Still, if you can get through these quickly, you might enjoy the quick interview and behind-the-scenes clips you get as a "reward."
The DVD also features two music videos, Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." Then, of course, there's the required trailers.
This film, and the quality of the DVD, really surprised me. Jennifer Garner certainly proves that she has enough energy and spunk to carry her own movie. If you're looking for a feel good date movie on DVD, you can't go wrong with this one.