I'll admit it: I held little hope of being entertained by 13 Going On 30, director Gary Winick's estrogenized riff on the Penny Marshall classic Big. Star Jennifer Garner isn't one of my favorite actresses, although Mark Ruffalo's choices often intrigue me (save for, maybe, Just Like Heaven). Imagine my surprise when 13 Going On 30 finished and I hadn't even noticed 90 minutes elapsing - thanks to a winning turn by Garner and genuine chemistry shared by Garner and Ruffalo, this light-as-air chick flick is actually compelling and kicky. It's been a long time since I watched something I could categorize as "fun," but 13 Going On 30 certainly fits that description. Even my girlfriend, who isn't Garner's biggest fan, admitted that the "Alias" star looked "very cute" and pulled off the role of bubbly Jenna Rink quite well.
I'll skip summarizing the film's plot (for that, check out my colleague Aaron Beierle's review of 13 Going On 30: Special Edition) but suffice to say that it's standard rom-com stuff, given delicious twists courtesy of great supporting work from Judy Greer and Andy Serkis (whose fey magazine editor is a far cry from Gollum and King Kong) and greatly enhanced by the pairing of Garner and Ruffalo (when you see how effervescent Garner is here, you wonder why she submits to drivel like Elektra). The film's conclusion is truly poignant and its message carries some weight. As cliched romantic comedies go, this one ranks near the top.
This "Fun & Flirty Edition" is the second appearance of this 2004 release on DVD; I can't discern what made Sony Pictures redo this disc (Valentine's Day, maybe?) but the previous special edition seemed pretty outfitted with any supplemental material a fan could want. It's a shameless double dip that should piss off consumers, particularly when you consider the bonus feature switcheroo Sony pulled (more on that below). The fact that such an unexpected treat as 13 Going On 30 is being treated thusly by its studio is pretty annoying and potentially confusing those who might pick up the disc on a whim.
As with its previous release, 13 Going On 30 looks solid with its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer - those garish Eighties colors are vibrant and fairly pop off the screen. There's no edge enhancement, no softness or smearing and overall, this image is in great shape (as befits a recently released film) and appears to be unchanged from its previous DVD incarnation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (also available in French and Portuguese) isn't designed to wow your speakers but does its job - dialogue is heard clearly, free of distortion and the Eighties-heavy soundtrack does have a little oomph to it (I've heard Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield" enough to last me a few weeks). As with the previous disc, the soundtrack seems untouched and English, French, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles are included.
My first gripe with Sony Pictures re-releasing this DVD? Well, "Fun & Flirty Edition" is a pretty lame title but why does the case have to be scented like bubble gum? Blech. Or howzabout dropping the pair of audio commentaries (one from director Winick, one from producers Gina Matthews, Donna Arkoff-Roth and Susan Arnold) that were found on the first disc? I can't see any justification for that decision, unless of course it was to make room for the paltry "new" special features: an alternate beginning and ending (featuring the child actors which tested negatively with early audiences) and the utterly pointless "1980s Fashion Flashback" featurette. In addition, three deleted scenes were excised from the previous release, leaving the total of deleted/extended scenes at 15. Otherwise, the bonus material from the previous edition is intact: the mildly amusing blooper reel, the featurette "I Was A Teenage Geek," where the stars reminisce about their high school days; the making-of featurette "Making of a Teen Dream" is every inch the fluffy EPK while "The 80's Outfit Challenge" is a set-top game that's amusing for about two minutes - ditto "Then And Now," another set-top game detailing the differences between the double aughts and the Eighties. Music videos for Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" are also on board as are trailers for other Sony Pictures DVD releases and an image gallery.
13 Going On 30 surprised me with its wit, sassiness and fantastic work from Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo - as sentimental romantic comedies go, this one ranks near the top. The reason I stop short of recommending this disc? Sony Pictures' bizarre and arbitrary decision to eliminate certain bonus features - particularly the commentaries - while adding more, less worthy features (not to mention re-releasing this film on DVD roughly a year and a half after its initial appearance). It's a shame the studio couldn't leave this film alone and let it find an audience via the special edition already on the market. Rent it if you must but the two new special features aren't worth your time.