Sunday, August 28, 2011

Project Transformers: 13 Going on 30

Please excuse the short hiatus from watching these movies.  I grabbed the first disc of season one of Justified from Netflix and nothing else (besides shows that are airing new episodes right now) graced my TV until I had finished the second season and watched the ending twice.  I'm sure I'll go into more detail about the goings-on in Harlan, KY, later, but now back to my journey through my wife's chick flicks and it continues with the 2004 movie, 13 Going on 30.

A nerdy 13-year-old girl in 1987 hates her life and how she is not friends with the popular crowd, constantly wishing that she could be 30 and glamorous like the people in her favorite magazine.  After the cool kids destroy her party, leaving her to turn on the only friend she has, she has some sort of glitter fall on her and wakes up as a 30-year-old (Jennifer Garner) in Manhattan in 2004.  She learns that she turned into one of the cool people and ditched said only friend when she goes to find him (Mark Ruffalo), also living in Manhattan.  She discovers that the nerdy girl was the best girl to be all along and falls in love with the old nerdy friend, yada yada yada.  It's difficult to pick the plot apart to some extent (even leaving out my astonishment that Garner only had to get used to cell phone rings and her own boobs, with no mention whatsoever of how the world changed internet-wise from 1987 to 2004), because the movie is essentially a fairy tale and one wouldn't really pick apart the plot of a Disney movie.  Having said that (with a nod to Jerry Seinfeld), pick this plot apart is exactly what I'm about to do, because the ending of the movie is BS.

Living happily ever after is all well and good for a fairy tale, but how we get to the "happily ever after" in 13 Going on 30 is so flawed that I've seen Saturday Night Live sketches with more thought put into how they're going to close.  Bear with me as I explain, but I refuse to "spoiler alert" a movie from 2004.  Ruffalo is getting married to a woman who, by all accounts, is just fine but just not Jennifer Garner.  So Garner, having saved her magazine (presumably only to go out of business in five years or so when the internet makes most magazines obsolete) with Ruffalo's help, goes to find him at his wedding (which, frankly, seemed to just pop out of the blue as a plot device, making it the only matrimony ex machina I can ever remember).  She expresses her love to him and he is broken up about it because he has always loved her, but he's about to marry this not-so-bad woman. (Aside: the potential for him to leave this perfectly not-so-bad woman to marry the girl of his dreams made me think longingly of Michael Showalter's The Baxter.)  He then goes to his closet and takes out the "dream house" that he made for her when they were kids -- from which the magic glitter fell on her in 1987 -- and the glitter falls on her again, upon which she wakes up back in 1987 but just moments before the original glitter fell on her, just in time for her to express her love for Kid Ruffalo and then they are shown living happily ever after.  Let's go through the problems with the ending:

  • Problem #1: She gets back to 1987 right before the original glitter falls on her.  By kissing Kid Ruffalo, she averts the glitter from ever falling in the first place.  How did she then learn she should kiss him?
  • Problem #2: In the timeline of the movie, she became popular in high school by befriending the cool kids and then ended up with a great life, lots of money, and a dream job.  She worked at the job with the leader of the cool kids, played by Judy Greer (Fun Fact: she was also in 27 Dresses! Yay for Judy Greer's career!).  If Kid Garner fell in love with Kid Ruffalo, then presumably she did not sell out to become one of the cool kids.  The "happily ever after" part of the movie doesn't say what she does for a living, but I'm guessing she still had the great magazine job.  So how did she end up looking exactly the same and happy in the same way, even though her entire high school experience and the entire track of her life changed?
Again, it's a fairy tale, but I'm uncomfortable with this idea that she changed something in her life, but it still continued down the same track for everything but her love life.  There's another paradox as well.  Where did 30-year-old Jennifer Garner's conscious mind go when 13-year-old Jennifer Garner's mind was in the 30-year-old body?  Was it a Quantum Leap situation, where it was hanging out in some room somewhere.  Did it jump into the 13-year-old's body, where it was extremely bored because there was no internet in 1987?  The only way these paradoxes don't matter is if the whole movie is a dream, but that can't be true because of "Problem #1" above.  Like I said, BS. 

I should also note here that another release in 2004 was one of the best high school movies ever, Mean Girls.  That movie talks about nerds versus cool kids and how, in the end, people just sort of outgrow it.  13 Going on 30 does not subscribe to that theory and that bothered me.

The prime fun in this movie comes from the references to '80s music, keyed by the big "Thriller" dance scene, but even there I found a little annoyance as the edit they used of "Thriller" was not the actual song and, at one point, a character turns on "Ice, Ice, Baby" and the song starts at the beginning of the third verse.  Over all the movie is fairly fun, especially because it's impossible to hate Mark Ruffalo, even if he's playing a guy who runs over a kid or a way-too-hippy-ish winery owner who inexplicably attracts a married lesbian.  Garner does not do a very good acting job in this movie, but I like her okay too, from her time on Alias or in Juno.  So, yes, my anger at the ending aside, I enjoyed this much more than 27 Dresses and generally did not hate it.  Even if there's no way in the world that that many people know the "Thriller" dance by heart.


Betsy said...

Tom has never seen Mean Girls.

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