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13 GOING ON 30 – Theodore Shapiro

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A delightfully nostalgic throwback to the 1980s, 13 Going on 30 is a charming fantasy-comedy that plays like the female version of the classic Tom Hanks movie Big. Teenager Jenna Rink (Christa Allen) wants nothing more than to be popular and date one of the cutest boys in school, but when her birthday party turns into a disaster, and she had an argument with her friend Matt (Jack Salvatore Jr.), she retreats to a closet. Wishing she could be 30 years old, Jenna knocks over “pixie dust” from the dolls house Matt makes for her… and awakens the next morning in the year 2004, looking like Jennifer Garner. She’s has a power-house job as an editor for Poise magazine, and is friends with Lucy (Judy Greer), the girl for whose companionship she craved all those years ago. However, Jenna’s mind is still stuck in 1987: not knowing what to do, and adrift in a world she doesn’t know or understand, she tracks down the only one she believes she can trust: 30-year old Matt, now a hip New York photographer who looks like Mark Ruffalo.

Director Gary Winick helms the proceedings with a deft touch, screenwriters Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa get the delicate balance of broad comedy and affecting romance perfectly right; and Jennifer Garner brings the right mix of innocence and sense of adventure to a role which could not be more far removed from her persona in the hit TV show “Alias”. Special mention should also go to some splendid performances in the supporting case, notably Andy Serkis shaking off the shackles of Gollum as Jenna’s British boss, and Samuel Ball in a dim-witted, cringe-inducing but well-judged performance as Jenna’s ice hockey jock boyfriend.

Composer Teddy Shapiro continues his excellent run of successes in 2004, following on from Along Came Polly, Starsky and Hutch and Dodgeball. 13 Going On 30 is as fluffy a romantic comedy a score as you could imagine; it adheres to every genre cliché invented, but does it with such effortless warmth you can’t help but enjoy it. A lush string orchestra combined with an expressive solo guitar to highlight the blossoming adult relationship between Jenna and Matt; light chimes add that touch of magic to the “pixie dust” that grants Jenna’s childhood wish, and there are even some wonderfully retro rock instrumentals to underscore the establishing scenes of Jenna in her 1980s high school.

Speaking of retro, the song score is also a winner all the way: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is danced-to on screen in one of the film’s most buoyant scenes, Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” plays an important role in establishing the ethos of the screenplay, and the accompanying soundtrack features additional songs by Rick Springfield (“Jessie’s Girl”), Madonna (“Crazy For You”), Whitney Houston (“I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, Vanilla Ice (“Ice Ice Baby”), Soft Cell (“Tainted Love”), and several other classic artists from the period. HIGHLY recommended.

Rating: ****

Buy the 13 Going on 30 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Head Over Heels (performed by The Go-Go’s)
  • Jessie’s Girl (performed by Rick Springfield)
  • Burning Down The House (performed by Talking Heads)
  • Mad About You (performed by Belinda Carlisle)
  • I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (performed by Whitney Houston)
  • What I Like About You (performed by The Romantics)
  • Ice Ice Baby (performed by Vanilla Ice)
  • Crazy for You (performed by Madonna)
  • Vienna (performed by Billy Joel)
  • Why Can’t I? (performed by Liz Phair)
  • Tainted Love (performed by Soft Cell)
  • Love Is a Battlefield (performed by Pat Benatar)
  • Will I Ever Make It Home (performed by Ingram Hill)
  • Thriller (performed by Michael Jackson)

Hollywood Records (2004)

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