Until '13 Going on 30' hit theaters in 2004, it had been a long time since we'd had a good body-swap movie. Forgetting lame flicks like 'Vice Versa' or 'Like Father, Like Son,' there's the classic 'Freaky Friday,' or the Tom Hanks favorite 'Big,' but not much else of note. '13 Going on 30' is not as good as 'Big' or 'Freaky Friday' (and that includes the remake of the latter), but it is warm, witty and winning, and it features a breakout lead performance by Jennifer Garner. This is one body-swap chick-flick that, despite its flaws, is appealing enough to transcend such a dubious tag.
Garner stars as the adult version of young 13 year-old Jenna Rink. After some school friends play a prank, and with a little help from some magical wishing dust (don't ask), Jenna is suddenly 30 years-old and... gorgeous. Almost overnight, she gets a cool new job as a fashion magazine editor, her own long-suffering rival (Judy Greer), a hip gay boss (Gollum himself, Andy Serkis), and, most importantly, the grown-up version (Mark Ruffalo) of the boy she once left behind. It's going to take some real magic if Jenna is going to finally heal the little girl inside her and go back to pursue the love she left behind.
On one level, '13 Going on 30' is rather stupid. It hardly seems sensible that a little girl of 13 is supposed to recognize the love of her life, so basing your plot on flashing-forward and making your hero force herself to come to terms with her "mistake" comes off as a pretty ham-handed cliche. Worse, Garner and Ruffalo don't enjoy much chemistry -- Garner is utterly lovable and disarmingly chirpy in the role (for my money, it's the best performance she's delivered in a movie yet), but Ruffalo appears a tad embarrassed, as if slumming in a commercial comedy is beneath him.
Flaccid romance aside, '13 Going on 30' works simply as a silly teen wish fulfillment fantasy, and '80s nostalgia trip. The film is filled with super-cute, super-enjoyable montage scenes, from Garner staging a slumber party, to her inspired idea for a fashion shoot that in one fell swoop convinces her bosses of her brilliance. Also amusing is Garner's continual battles with Greer, who is underrated as always in the pouty-bitch role. Serkis also plays just the right note of whimsical truth and over-the-top mugging as the gay editor. The cast's overall comedic vibe meshes perfectly by the time of the film's big "Thriller" dance number, which is utterly preposterous but so much fun it's hard to complain. '13 Going on 30' is at its best when it stops trying for romantic significance and just has a good time with its body-swapping conceit.
Ultimately, unlike 'Big' or even 'Freaky Friday,' '13 Going on 30' doesn't really have much deep to say about the nature of relationships, or human aging. But I suppose every generation needs its movie where the kid becomes the adult and gets into all kind of wacky trouble, and its own reminder that mom and dad's fashions and music (re: the '80s) were maybe kinda cool after all. '13 Going on 30' is the perfect such movie, one that won't exactly stimulate the intellect but is still a perfectly delightful, nostalgia-wrapped slice of cinematic comfort food.
'13 Going on 30' comes to Blu-ray a few years after the special edition DVD, and appears to be minted from the same master. Which is not a bad thing at all, as this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) is pure visual eye candy.
Colors are the best asset of the film's visual style -- they are bright and bouncy and perfectly saturated, with excellent fleshtones. Contrast is vivid and blacks deep. The source is likewise clean, with only a little grain and a splash of noise, but otherwise no artifacts or edge enhancement to muck things up. Depth and visible detail are also above par, with a very high-def-looking presentation. '13 Going on 30' shouldn't disappoint anyone.
Sony provides a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track for '13 Going on 30,' which sounds nice and bubbly.
Surround use is better than I expected for a silly comedy, with lots of uses of nostalgic pop/rock tunes that nicely enliven the rear channels. There are sporadic discrete effects as well, and subtle ambiance when needed. The mix is quite polished, with excellent dynamic range and perky low bass. Dialogue is still the star of the show, and sounds perfectly clean and clear. '13 Going on 30' sounds exactly as it should.
Inanely dubbed the "Fun and Flirty Edition," the Blu-ray packs the same extras as the previous special edition DVD. It's all a bit lightweight, but the material serves the film well. (All video is 480i/MPEG-2, with the same subtitle options as the main feature.)
'13 Going on 30' is a fun and very frothy romantic comedy. It doesn't really work as a love story (as I didn't buy the chemistry between Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo), but the use of '80s tunes and some colorful supporting characters take up the slack. This Blu-ray looks and sounds very nice, and the extras are quite enjoyable, too. '13 Going on 30' is easily recommended for fans of the chick flick.