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13 Going on 30 (2004)
Rated PG13

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, and Kathy Baker

Rating:
***
out of
*****

Jennifer Garner's newest film, 13 Going on 30, cements her as one of Hollywood's brightest new stars. She possesses an enthusiasm for performing that's engaging without ever coming off as fake or calculated. While the movie isn't going to win any awards for originality or innovation, it's a sweet and harmless romantic fantasy that definitely hits all the right marks for sappiness and charm.

Jenna Risk is a bright twelve-year-old girl who finds herself unattractive. She wants to skip the awkward years of puberty and jump right to being "thirty, flirty and successful" as a woman's magazine she reads puts it. Since she can't fast-forward through time, she thinks the key to being popular and attractive is to be accepted into a clique of girls known as the "Six Chicks." Her best friend, Matt, doesn't understand why she'd want to give up being an authentic and cool person just to fit in with the plastic popular girls. At Jenna's thirteenth birthday, a prank pulled by the "Six Chicks" sets into motion a chain of events that gives Jenna her wish: She wakes up a sexy and successful thirty-year-old but she doesn't remember how she it all came to be.

The older Jenna (Jennifer Garner) finds herself in a relationship with a dumb hockey player, estranged from her best friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo) and working as a editor at a popular magazine. As she struggles to come to grips with what's happened, she also discovers that while she may have gotten everything she'd ever dreamed about as a child -- a great job, a big house, etc -- she isn't very happy or a nice person. She sets out to find Matt and set things right.

As I said, the plot isn't particularly original. Jennifer Garner's performance is the sole reason the movie works. She has such an obviously good time in her role and is able to convey the awkwardness of a thirteen-year-old in a thirty-year-old body so well that I had a tough time not smiling throughout the entire movie. Mark Ruffalo is also exceptional as the best friend who was passed over by Jenna. He plays the dissappointed and dejected Matt quite effectively. Andy Serkis, the man who "played" Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, is also wonderful as Richard, Jenna's harried editor-in-chief.

13 Going on 30 is as charming as a romantic comedy with fantasy elements can possibly be in this day and age. Jennifer Garner shows that 2004 and the years beyond are definitely going to be good for her.

Trivia: Renée Zellweger was considered for the lead role. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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