I was rather pleasantly surprised by this film. Obviously, the storyline is by no means unique, and I've seen too many films featuring kids and adults miraculously switching places to feel all that confident about going once more into a similar breach, but 13 Going on 30 is actually, well, delightful. I'm a big Jennifer Garner fan going all the way back to her role in the short-lived Time of Your Life; by and large, I think she did a wonderful job in this role. It is certainly a different Jennifer Garner than we see on Alias, and it certainly appears as if she relished a role in which she got to be silly and whimsical. I would have to credit Mark Ruffalo with an even more impressive performance, though, as his was the subtle glue that held the fantastical elements of the plot together.
Young Jenna has just turned 13; already unhappy with the way she looks and anxious to be popular, she suffers an embarrassing indignation which has her fervently wishing to be 30. Thanks to some wishing dust on the model dream home her obviously infatuated by "not cool" friend Matt built for her, she gets her wish. I thought the early scenes featuring 13-year-old Jenna reacting to the instant passing of 17 years and adjusting to her new, uh, accessories was a little awkward, and a certain lack of continuity in regard to her reactions to new stimuli popped up sporadically as the film progressed. One minute she's acting like a young teenager, and then she will suddenly seem to have grown up into her new age to a significant degree. Anyway, she discovers that all of her dreams have come true: she was popular, and she has become mighty successful in life - actually sitting atop the fashion magazine she was addicted to as a kid. Before long, though, she begins to see that having it all isn't all it is cracked up to be. This grown-up body she inhabits is actually a rather empty shell of a not so nice person. She learns that she has done some rather nasty things over the course of the missing 17 years. The only person she can turn to is her friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo), but the two have gone in very different directions over the years. In the process of trying to save her magazine, Jenna learns that the dreams of childhood don't turn out the way you thought they would and other obvious life lessons, etc., etc. You can probably guess what happens at the end.
The film does succeed rather well as a comedy; the Thriller dance scene, while uncomfortable to watch, is indeed quite silly, and some of adult Jenna's interactions with young teens also play well. I also loved the fact that the movie helped take me back to the 1980s, to some degree. There are some classic 80s tunes on the soundtrack, and beginning the film with the sound of the Go-Go's definitely qualifies for a star in my book. That being said, I have to say that I don't remember some of the awful hair-dos of the film actually existing in the late 80s - certainly not among the girls my eyes gravitated toward in those halcyon days of youth.
In the end, this is basically your silly, entertaining, feel-good comedy, and it stars one of Hollywood's most attractive, talented actresses. It doesn't try to be anything more than what it is, and that is a big reason why it works as well as it does. It is by no means a must-see, but I do believe it is a film you cannot help but enjoy.