13 Going on 30 starts Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, and Andy Serkis and was directed by Gary Winick. It tells the story of Jenna Rink who on her 13th birthday in 1987 makes a wish that she was older. Her wish magically comes true and she wakes up in the year 2004 as a 30 year old fashion magazine editor, played by Jennifer Garner. She has no memory of the missing years and must reconnect with a childhood friend, played by Mark Ruffalo, in order to understand what happened to her life. For the last sixteen years, I’ve been planning to watch this movie today: February 28th, 2020. Now that might seem like a weirdly specific thing to plan for more than a decade and a half, but I promise that I have a reason.
You see, today is my birthday. And not just any birthday, but my 30th birthday. Ah, now my crazy, oddly specific plan makes all the sense in the world, right? It might be kinda silly, but I’m being totally honest about having planned this viewing since the movie came out. It always just seemed so perfect cause when the movie came out, I had just turned 14 about two months earlier. And so just with the timing, I’ve always had this age connection with the movie: 13 and now 30. So, there’s no point in trying to keep my feelings about this movie secret until the rating portion of this video.
I mean, just the fact that I’ve had this plan for so long makes it kinda obvious: I absolutely love 13 Going on 30. Not ironically, not in a guilty-pleasure sort of way ñ I truly love this movie. I thought it was fantastic when I saw it in the theater back in 2004 and I still do today on my umpteenth rewatch. And it’s crazy cause even though I have this strong connection with the movie, my enjoyment of it now isn’t just because of nostalgia. I think it’s legitimately still a really good movie as an adult.
I know it’s got its problems (which I’ll talk about in a bit) and that it’s one of those movie that most people view as an okay, but mediocre romcom, but this is one of those rare films that I get inexplicable joy from. I can’t even begin to venture a guess as to how many times I’ve seen this movie and even so, I could watch it on an infinite loop and still be happy. So what is it about this movie for me? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. It’s just that all the individual pieces come together in a way that really works for me. The characters are just so good and memorable. I guess you could argue that they’re kinda the typical romantic comedy characters, but they’ve always stood out to me compared to similar-ish movies. Especially the main characters of Jenna and Matt.
There’s just something so genuine about them, both when they’re kids and adults. Even though it’s in the context of this fantasy-romance premise, they actually feel like they’re real people, which makes it really easy to relate to this movie. I think a major contributing factor to that was the casting ñ it’s perfect. Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo are fantastic in the lead roles. They’ve got this really charming and sweet chemistry together and I honestly can’t even imagine anybody else playing these characters. Another huge thing that makes this movie work for me is the humor. Again, I’ve seen this movie so many times, but I still find it incredibly funny.
The premise obviously lends itself to some great fish-out-of-water comedy, but it’s just so well done. Jennifer Garner plays the goofy innocence of the suddenly 30 Jenna perfectly. She’s got the mind of a 13 year old in the life and body of a 30 year old, so seeing how she responds to an array of situations is just endlessly funny to me. And not only is there that sort of body swap comedy to her character, but she’s also out of her time.
She makes her wish in 1987 and then wakes up in 2004. So, we get a lot of great scenes stemming from her lack of knowledge of the future; she doesn’t know who Eminem is and she doesn’t even know what a cell phone is. And so we get some seriously funny reactions from her, but we also get some equally funny reactions from the people around her who don’t understand what her problem is. Mark Ruffalo has got some of my favorite cinematic facial reactions of all time in this movie and I can sit here and laugh just thinking about him backing up into the wall as Jenna’s yelling for a fluffy pillow.
The interactions between Jenna and her secretary and with her boss are also up there as some of the funniest in the movie. And even beyond the visual gags, this movie has some hysterical dialogue. Most of the stuff from Lucy falls a bit flat, but everything else is just so good and quotable. This movie also did the whole 80s nostalgia thing about a decade before it became such a popular and omnipresent thing. And honestly, the 80s-nostalgia craze really isn’t something that I enjoy too much.
I’m not much of a fan of the 80s and all the recent movies and shows focusing on the decade feel like they try way too hard to evoke nostalgia from people. But this movie does it in such a fantastically natural way, that I actually love it. Even though 80s stuff is so prominent in this movie, you never feel like you’re getting beaten over the head with it. And I think it’s largely because of this time travel-ish premise. It makes sense that Jenna’s mind would be stuck in the 80s, so we get a ton of pop culture references and a great, very memorable soundtrack that features Rick Springfield, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, The Go-Gos, Talking Heads, and so many more.
I think it’s really easy for people to knock this film just because of what it is or, more accurately, what it appears to be. Romantic comedies from the early 2000s kinda have this stigma to them. They’re typically viewed as these cheesy throwaway clones that are pretty much interchangeable with each other. And it would be even easier to dismiss this particular film as very unoriginal cause of its premise similarity to Big. But this movie has a lot more to offer than people give it credit for.
Yeah it’s got the comedy and the fun premise and great cast, but it’s also a surprisingly good coming-of-age story. Again, another genre that’s a dime a dozen, but this one just really works and captures the experience of growing up so well. It touches on so many emotional and just real points in a person’s life and truly does work on both ends of the age spectrum. When I first saw this in the theater, I was just a touch over the titular age of 13 and even though I never experienced the exact scenarios that young Jenna Rink did, I could still connect with the movie at that age.
I could understand her insecurities and empathize with that overwhelming desire to grow up and move on in life. Today, rewatching the movie at the other titular age of 30, I still connect with just as strongly ñ simply in a different way. I may not be a magazine editor and I don’t live in New York City, but I do have some Razzles and I can really understand that feeling of suddenly being an adult. Of not feeling properly prepared for it at all and missing the seemingly simpler times of childhood. I’ve now lived both sides of 13 Going on 30 and the movie really works no matter which side of it you’re on. Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons.
This is one of those movies that I have way too many pros for, but I’ll try to touch on some of the big ones. Pro number one is the comedy. This movie just comedically works for me, no matter how many times I watch it. I really love fish-out-of-water stories and the humor that comes from them, so this movie already had an inherent boost to it. But then it’s got some insanely funny dialogue and one-liners, plus tons of situational humor and excellent reaction shots. I have a feeling I find this movie a bit funnier than the average person does, but it’s endlessly entertaining for me.
The second pro has gotta be the characters and casting, especially the leads. Jenna and Matt are such great, believable and relatable characters and you really grow to care about them over the course of the movie. It’s really easy to lose that connection with characters in romantic comedies, but I don’t know ñ I just really like these characters. And Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo were the perfect casting choices. Neither are really known for their comedy, but I think the fact that they aren’t comedians makes the humor more genuine.
They feel like real people in these, at times, absurd situations and they just go together so well. Garner’s capable of playing up the goofy innocence really well and I’ve yet to find a romantic comedy starring Mark Ruffalo that wasn’t improved by his presence. Or any type of movie for that matter. Pro number three has gotta be the themes. I know it might sound weird to be so highly praising of a movie like this, but it’s actually got a really genuine and heartfelt message at its core.
Under the romantic comedy facade, it’s a movie about growing up and dealing with the pressures of being an adult, even when you don’t feel like you’re ready. I guess the point is that you never feel ready, so you’ve gotta accept and enjoy the point in your life that you’re at, in that moment. It’s rare that a movie like this can capture that coming-of-age struggle so well and it’s a movie that I was able to connect with at 13 just as well as I’ve been able to connect with it at 30. As far as the cons go, this movie definitely has some issues, but none of them have ever bothered me very much. I guess the biggest issue is that it’s very predictable.
I mean, it’s a romantic comedy, so you know from the get-go what’s gonna happen with the two leads and all the genre tropes you’re gonna see. And it’s a movie about a kid who wishes she was older and then gets that wish, you know the basic lessons that she’s gonna learn from the experience. And I’ve said this in reviews before, but sometimes predictability in a movie isn’t such a terrible thing. As long as you can enjoy the ride, who cares if you can anticipate the route it’s gonna take? Con number two for me is the character of Lucy. Right from the beginning, she’s set up as the character we’re supposed to hate, so that’s not the thing that lands her on the cons list.
There’s just this unnatural quality to her that stand out in the midst of all the believable characters. I think a big part of it is her character’s dialogue which is frequently made up of things that you might write, but would probably never say cause of how unnatural it sounds. And Judy Greer does a great job of making you hate the character, but there’s something about her performance and line delivery that just feels a bit out of step with the rest of the movie.
Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying 13 Going on 30 or any of the other films I’ve mentioned today, I do have affiliate links to all of them in the description below. I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies. I’m gonna give 13 Going on 30 5 out of 5 paws. I’m sure that rating’s not a surprise to anybody at this point in the video, but I absolutely love this movie. It’s just got so many things that work for me.
It’s one of my favorite romantic comedies, one of my favorite coming-of-age stories, and just one of my favorite movies. I would recommend 13 Going on 30 to anybody who likes romantic comedies, even just a little bit. It has some of the things you expect from the genre, but has much less cheesiness and much more earnestness to its story. Plus, it’s incredibly funny and has a fun premise, so I really think that even people who think they don’t like romantic comedies will end up finding this one pretty enjoyable.
If you liked 13 Going on 30, the first and most obvious recommendation I’ve gotta make is Tom Hanks’ Big. The basic premise is essentially the same here ñ you’ve got a comedy about a kid whose wish to be older magically comes true and then they’ve gotta deal with life as an adult in order to realize that being a kid really isn’t all that bad. If you liked the scenes involving 13 year old Jenna, you’ve definitely gotta check out Mean Girls. It was released literally one week after 13 Going on 30 was and almost seems like it could be viewed as that interim high school period that Jenna Rink skips with her wish.
I mean, the Plastics are basically the Six Chicks. And if you want another deceptively good ìchick flickî comedy about a fashion magazine, be sure to watch The Devil Wears Prada. It’s another surprisingly funny and genuine movie that you could easily and mistakenly dismiss just cause of its genre and your perception of what you think it is. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen 13 Going on 30? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite coming-of-age movie? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.