10 Reasons Why '13 Going on 30' is An Underrated Rom-Com
2014 is a big year for movie anniversaries. Avatar celebrates its 5-year anniversary; Mean Girls and The Notebook both turn 10; Forrest Gump hits the big 2-0; and Ghostbusters is going on 30. While those movies are bona fide classics, there are some other smaller movies with notable anniversaries this year that deserve some celebratory love, too. The sugary sweet, but very funny coming-of-age romantic comedy 13 Going on 30 turns 10-years-old on Wednesday April, 23 and it's time to break out the Razzles and have a party in your parents' basement.
13 Going on 30 follows Jenna Rink, a 13-year-old who wishes to be "30, flirty, and thriving" on her birthday. After some wishing dust falls on her (yep, this movie is pure cheese and escapism fantasy, but it works), Jenna is transported to see her future self (her future self, as luck would have it, looks like Jennifer Garner) as a successful magazine editor living in New York City. On the surface it looks like Jenna has it all, but she comes to discover she's turned into a not-very-nice person and lost her oldest friend in the world, and one true love, Matt (an especially adorable Mark Ruffalo) over the years.
The premise of movie may make it sound like a cheap imitation of the classic Big, but 13 Going on 30 has its own distinct personality, not to mention a significantly less creepy love story at the center of it. Sure it's a movie that's as light as air and has more than enough cliches to go around (why the hell does every woman in rom-coms work in some fantastical version of the magazine industry?), but it's as entertaining and charming today as it was ten years ago. Here's 13 reasons why 13 Going on 30 is an underrated gem.
Jenna and Matt's Romance is One to Actually Root For
Romantic comedy romances are usually so by-the-book and predictable: guy and girl meet, hate each other at first, and then fall in love. It's not only a bore, but one that makes moviegoers less invested in caring about the on-screen couple. Jenna and Matt are friends who, like friends often do, drift apart in their adult years, but still have lingering feelings. You can tell Jenna wants to right the wrongs she's made over the years, and Matt is, as Jenna puts it, the sweetest guy. There are actual circumstances to keep them apart (he's engaged to another woman, and she's, well a 13-year-old trapped in a 30-year-old's body) so the rom-com stakes for this couple actually feel high. When Jenna gets transported back to her 13th birthday and plants a smooch on 13-year-old Matt, it will make anyone wish they could go back in time and get the one that got away.
Judy Greer Is In It
And Judy Greer freakin' rules. Sure she's relegated to playing the best friend again, but she's so damn good at it, it doesn't even matter because Judy Greer rules.
And So Is Andy Serkis
We're so used to not actually seeing Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis (his essence and voice are in Gollum and his other performance-capture roles) that it's a treat when we actually get to see the versatile actor playing a more modest role like a magazine editor. Even without CGI magic Serkis can steal the show.
And Jim Gaffigan For That Matter, As Jenna's Crush-Turned-Schlub
Seriously, this supporting cast rules.
It's the Rare Rom-Com That's Both Romantic and a Comedy
Just try not to lose it watching grown-up Jenna's dopey boyfriend Alex (Samuel Ball) try and "seduce" her with a striptease to "Ice, Ice Baby."
It's a Reminder That Jennifer Garner Should Have Been America's Sweetheart
Tom Hanks earned a Best Actor nomination for his brilliant performance in Big, but the most Jennifer Garner got for her own inspired turn as a kid-stuck-in-an-adult-boy in 13 Going on 30 only got her a Choice Movie Actress Teen Choice Award nod. Garner is probably best known as Ben Affleck's wife, which is really a shame because she's not only a genuinely likable star (she once babysat for Stephen Colbert!), but she's turned in some truly wonderful performances in films like Juno, Dallas Buyers Club, Catch Me If You Can, and of course, 13 Going on 30. She deserves more credit than she gets.
The Dance Sequences Actually Work
Coordinated dance sequences happen in rom-coms way more than they probably have any right to (looking at you, Friends With Benefits) and are usually eye-rollingly lame. When Jenna livens up a work function by getting the DJ to play Michael Jackson's "Thriller," it's totally believable that a group of 30-somethings would remember the moves. (Kids of the '90s no doubt still know how to do the "Macarena.") Okay, the "Love is a Battlefield" slumber party sing-a-long was a bit of a stretch (what teen in 2004 would know the words to a Pat Benatar song?) but the "Thriller" moment was genuine, infectious fun.
Middle School Was Hell, Too
Most coming-of-age movies either focus on really young kids or high schoolers, but honestly the most traumatic and formative years come during middle school. 13-year-old Jenna and Matt's experiences in school and social circles were an accurate and terrifying reminder of how horrible those years could be. Mean girl cliques, feeling stuck between being a kid and being a grown-up, and botched rounds of "Seven Minutes in Heaven"? No wonder Jenna wanted to get out of that phase so badly.
So. Much. Nostalgia.
When 13 Going on 30 came out in 2004 it was an '80s-infused nostalgia fest packed with Rick Springfield references and fashion throwbacks (jeweled shirts!). But watching it in 2014 is double the nostalgia factor. Not only is there all the '80s stuff, but "modern" Jenna in 2004 looks just as dated, if not more so. The butterfly jewelry, the feathered sweaters, and the Teen People-inspired Poise photo shoot all scream early 2000's.
Did We Mention That Mark Ruffalo is Really, Really Adorable in It?
Where's our Matty Flamhaff?