13 Going On 30 garners success

April 22, 2004, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 20 years, 1 month ago

Never underestimate the power of wishing dust. A little sprinkle, a bit of wishing, and voilà – a teenager's dreams come true. So begins the sweet, witty movie that is 13 Going On 30.

The year is 1987, and 13-year-old Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) hates her life. She is the quintessential teenager, suffering endless teasing from her peers, being ignored by the guy she has a crush on and desperately wishing to be a member of the "Six Chicks," the most popular group of girls at school. On her thirteenth birthday, Jenna's next-door neighbor and best friend, Matt Flamhaff (Sean Marquette), gives her a packet of wishing dust. After being embarrassed and abandoned at her own birthday party by the Six Chicks, Jenna desperately makes a wish to be "thirty, flirty and thriving." The wishing dust drifts down from its place on the shelves as Jenna makes her wish, and the next morning, the 13-year-old wakes up in 2004 to find that her dream had come true.

Although at first delighted to be grown up and to find herself as the successful editor of Poise magazine, the new Jenna (Jennifer Garner) quickly discovers the flaws in her life. Matt (Mark Ruffalo) is no longer her friend, and her "best friend," Lucy (Judy Greer), is a backstabbing jerk. Before long, Jenna realizes that she has no real friends and that somewhere along the way, she had become a horrible person. Frantically but carefully, Jenna tries to find out what went wrong in her life, correcting mistakes and learning important life lessons along the way.

Jennifer Garner dazzles as a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old's body, delivering a performance that is funny and cute. The audience has no problem believing Jenna's initial panic at being 30 or her excitement at discovering her massive closet and shoe collection. Garner performs her role with an aura of innocence and energy that can be found only in teenagers, and her enthusiasm and sparkle carry the audience along in a happy, lively flow. As Jenna finds the pain and shock that comes upon her discovery of her true selfish character, Garner's serious, confused and heart-wrenching expressions aptly portray the emotional turmoil experienced by Jenna's 13-year-old self. Garner brings a valuable sweetness and sincerity to the movie, making the story her own with a fantastic display of artistic talent.

Granted, the teenager-in-an-adult's-body plot is a bit overused (Freaky Friday, Big, Jack), but the movie nonetheless presents situations that the audience can relate to. What child has not wondered about being grown up, and what adult has never reminisced about his or her childhood? Anyhow, it's the tiny details that count, such as the sweetness of Jenna and Matt rediscovering their friendship and reliving their childhood, the silliness of Jenna reading Magazine Publishing for Dummies and the hilarity as Jenna tries hard to evade her all-too-loving, hockey-playing, celebrity boyfriend (Samuel Ball). Any triteness in the plot is livened up by Garner's spectacular performance or eliminated by the small yet largely hilarious details in the movie.

One unexpected surprise that the movie delivers is its magnificent costume design, which leaves something to be desired and is worthy of praise. Costume designer Susie DeSanto does an excellent job selecting ensembles to match the characters' personalities and moods. In the beginning of the movie, the characters' 80's-style skirts and ponytails appear funny and comical, while Garner's attire, whether it's the adventurous green, blue and red dress, the naïve pink ensemble or the audacious coffee outfit complete with the chopsticks hair-do, match her young and innocent character. Furthermore, Lucy's dark green evening gown, described by boss Richard (Andy Serkis) as a "dangerous mermaid" look, fits perfectly the character's seemingly sweet yet aggressive and disloyal personality. DeSanto does a wonderful job of designing costumes that are not only chic and stylish but also reflect characters' moods and personalities.

There is no doubt that 13 Going On 30 is a thrilling, lovable and lively movie with a brilliant star actress and a wonderful, sentimental plot. Garner's energy and enthusiasm is contagious, and it is a joy to watch Jenna transform from a girl who wished to grow up to a woman who discovers how to live life. And to think, it all began with wishing dust…

13 Going On 30 is rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief drug references. Running time is 1 hour 37 minutes.

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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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