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Release Date: April 23, 2004

Director: Gary Winick
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Andy Serkis, Samuel Ball, Kiersten Warren

Plot Summary: On the eve of her 13th birthday, all Jenna Rink wants is to be pretty and popular. After a humiliating experience with the coolest kids in school, Jenna makes a desperate wish for a new life. Miraculously her wish comes true, but with one catch… it’s 17 years later and she’s a 13-year-old trapped inside a 30-year-old’s body. Jennifer Garner plays Jenna and Mark Ruffalo plays Garner’s childhood friend and love interest. Judy Greer plays Lucy, Garner’s best friend, Kathy Baker plays Garner’s mother, Phil Reeves plays Garner’s father, Andy Serkis portrays Garner’s boss and Samuel Ball portrays Garner’s boyfriend.

The plot seems to believe in the wishful thinking of its premise a little too readily. The audience may find they are uncommitted to believing in the product, willingly suspending disbelief or not.

13 Going on 30 may be like the Tom Hanks vehicle Big (1988) where he played a boy in a man’s body. It seems to have been revived in 2004 as a Jennifer Garner (Alias) vehicle with a similar premise.

However, taking girly 80’s teenage innocence and wholesomeness into the worldly city ways of adulthood circa 2004 is intriguing. Garner doesn’t make the transition look saccharine or smoochy.

The soundtrack may play like an advertisement for those best of 80’s collections (which include Michael Jackson and Madonna), but it is a movie that is surprisingly more in-depth than anticipated.

This is about the best things from the 80’s, learning from your mistakes, and waiting for life to unravel in its own timing and not ours: good messages for the teen market, and 30-somethings may get something out of this as well.

Jennifer Garner doesn’t get into the habit of scene stealing from the supporting players, which includes Mark Ruffalo (In the Cut) and Andy Serkis (Gollum, from The Lord of the Rings).

Garner, who is the appealing lead, proves she is no prima donna. She has also extended her range convincingly from butch chick (in Alias and Daredevil) to naïve 30-something. You might even expect a Golden Globe nomination for comedy actress next year. This movie is a good career move.

The entertaining first half, which includes a lively musical number set piece involving the song Thriller by Michael Jackson, follows a more complicated second half with conventional plot developments and character motivations, handled tastefully.

[Pictured: Jennifer Garner]

[First version published at entertainmentnutz.com/movies, 2004. This one here is the second version.]

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