It's 1987, and 13-year-old Jenna Rink desperately wants to fit in. She's kinda gawky, wears braces and, most important, is not a member of The Six Chicks—the ultracool clique from her school's in-crowd. She thinks that by inviting the group to her birthday party, she can ingratiate herself to them. Her friend Matt warns her that she can't be the "seventh chick in The Six Chicks," but to no avail. Sure enough, the cool kids want Jenna only for her term-paper-writing skills and quickly ditch her in a most embarrassing way.
The ever-loyal Matt, himself kinda dumpy and definitely not cool, sticks with her, but Jenna misunderstands and thinks he's part of the prank; she rudely kicks him out of her house. Earlier, however, Matt had given her "magic wishing dust" for her birthday, and by accident some of it sprinkles on her head as she sits crying, wishing she was 30. That's because her favorite magazine, Poise, had just done a cover story called "Thirty, Flirty & Thriving."
Jenna wakes up the next morning as a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old's body. She finds that she has a live-in boyfriend (a vain and air-headed professional hockey player), is a high-powered editor at the very same Poise magazine, and her former worst enemy and leader of The Six Chicks, Lucy Wyman, is now her co-worker. She finds out more, too: she's apparently a conniving, back-stabbing, power-hungry executive with no real friends. Looking back at high school yearbooks, she finds out that somehow she became one of The Six Chicks, which apparently accounts for her present ruthlessness.
Despite now being "Thirty, Flirty & Thriving," she discovers that her present state of being has come with a steep price tag, and the pursuit of such an ideal has left her desperately unhappy. More important, her best friend, Matt, has left her life and is engaged to marry another woman. Jenna is left to try to figure out where things went wrong and how to connect her present life with the last thing she remembers: her 13th birthday.
Positive messages abound. Young moviegoers will see that being good is more important than being popular. That friendship and loyalty trumps power and prestige. And that the choices you make and the friends you keep go a long way toward shaping who you become. Toward the end of the film, Jenna is told by her now-elderly mom that the only reason to regret mistakes is if you don't learn from the experience. Of course, Jenna learns these lessons the hard way: by having to see the ultimate result of wishing she was a grown-up before she has developed the necessary character and maturity. Viewers can use her foibles as incentive to do a little preventative maintenance of their own.
Finally, because Jenna is still basically 13 years old, just out of the "boys are icky" stage, her reaction to the sex-saturated (adult) culture she finds herself in is a refreshing change from normal movie fare. (For instance, when her boss hints that he's gay, she's stunned by the idea.)
None, unless you count the "magic wishing dust" that propels Jenna 17 years into the future.
At her 13th birthday party, Jenna is introduced to a game called "seven minutes in heaven," in which she's blindfolded and put in a closet. The cutest, most-popular jock from school then has seven minutes "to do what he wants with you." One girl warns beforehand, "Chris likes going for second base," upon which Jenna frantically pulls a wad of tissue out of her bra. Waking up as a 30-year-old, Jenna encounters a man leaving her apartment bathroom dressed only in a towel. (It's clear he knows her, since he calls her "sweet bottom.") He strips the towel off in a playful way, but Jenna's deployed umbrella keeps the audience from seeing anything. She later tells the grown-up Lucy, "I saw his thingy!"
There are several references to men's testicles, usually in the context of them being squeezed. A few times they're called "balls." The grown-up Jenna is surprised to see that she has "incredible boobs," and at first she gropes them in disbelief. Then she quickly learns to exploit them by wearing a series of tight-fitting, low-cut outfits. (She spends most of her first day in her new body clad only in lingerie and a jacket.) In her dresser drawers she finds extremely brief, lacy underwear. Worse, Jenna finds out that she's apparently been cheating with the husband of a co-worker, who refers to them "rattling the desk drawers" in her office during a previous encounter. (She kicks him in the groin.)
The naïve grown-up Jenna tells her boyfriend (a man of whom a colleague says has the "best a--" on the New York Rangers team) that she wants to play games, asking if he has Battleship. He replies, "Let me show you my destroyer." He then proceeds to do a comical striptease (he gets down to his underwear), leaving Jenna grossed out and embarrassed.
At a magazine design meeting, workers to refer to headlines such as "57 ways to have an orgasm," "touch-me-there underwear" and "he loves you, he loves your butt." A young teen girl laments the fact that boys won't "jump your bones" if you wear braces. When a co-worker tells Jenna that a grown man is making eyes at her, Jenna misunderstands and approaches a tween boy, who asks if she wants to go out sometime. Jenna's boss, who moments later admits to being gay, asks Jenna if Matt would be available.
Jenna kicks a man in the groin. (It's seen in silhouette through translucent glass.) Angry, Lucy knocks items off office desks.
Crude or Profane Language
The s-word is used once, as is "a--." God's name is abused at least a half-dozen times; Christ's once. A woman refers to herself as "a tough b--ch." Young Jenna calls a classmate the same thing.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Because the suddenly grown-up Jenna is acting weirdly, co-workers several times attribute it to her being drunk or on drugs. She's not—at first. At a company party, one woman orders an apple martini, so Jenna orders a piña colada. She proceeds to get bombed on the drinks because they taste so good, seemingly unaware of the power of the alcohol. Lucy smokes a cigarette in one scene. At a magazine design meeting, a woman presents a fashion look called "heroin chic." The models in the photos look like strung-out junkies, and the headlines read "deadly serious" and "fashion suicide"—as if they're positive things. People drink champagne at a wedding.
Other Negative Elements
Falling in love with Jenna all over again as an adult, Matt lets his attraction for her grow without being honest with his fiancée. He goes so far as to kiss Jenna; his girl certainly deserves more than a cover-up as their wedding day approaches.
[Spoiler Warning] Once Jenna returns to her 13-year-old body and world, she proves that she's learned her lesson about the value of true friendship and the futility of pursuing popularity by insulting Lucy, calling her names and knocking her soda out of her hands and onto her dress.
13 Going on 30 is a sweet, humorous movie. Anyone who lived through the '80s (and saw Big in the process) will crack up at a lot of the inside jokes, and the many misunderstandings between the grown-up Jenna and her adult friends are quite funny. Jenna's naïveté is refreshing, and her reaction to the sexual obsession of the people of 2004 is a breath of fresh air. Today's teens can learn lessons in appreciating what they have today while watching the potential outcomes of certain life choices.
While much of the sexual content consists of innuendo and double entendres, there are a few explicit references. And even though Jenna's reaction is the right one, teens still have to wade through all that. This movie is going to give families fits trying to decide whether it's worth their time. It's neither "good" enough nor "bad" enough to be a no-brainer. As the father of both a teenage daughter and son, I'd like them (especially her) to learn its positive lessons, but I'm not sure they won't also take away the idea that growing up naturally includes live-in relationships and male stripteases with a game or two of "seven minutes in heaven" thrown in along the way.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Jennifer Garner as Jenna Rink; Mark Rufallo as Matt Flamhaff; Judy Greer as Lucy Wyman; Andy Serkis as Richard Kneeland; Christa B. Allen as young Jenna; Sean Marquette as young Matt
Gary Winick (Tadpole)
Tom Neven Tom Neven