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Film / 13 Going on 30

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Matt: You can't just turn back time.
Jenna: Why not?

13 Going on 30 is a 2004 Romantic Comedy movie about a girl named Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner) who is 13 and suffers from the ageless drama of 13-year-old girls: she doesn't have enough boobs, she doesn't have enough cool clothes, she doesn't have a beautiful and popular boyfriend, and she definitely doesn't have friends among the In Crowd.

As a solution to this, she wishes to become older and successful and beautiful and popular and pretty much everything else. So, with a little help from a magic dust, she fast-forwards seventeen years in a blink and wakes up as a 30-year-old powerful magazine editor, whose best friend is Lucy Wyman, aka Tom-Tom (Judy Greer) the old queen bee at her school.

The only problem is, she doesn't remember a thing of how she passed the past years. Matt (Mark Ruffalo), a nerd who was her only friend at junior high school, helps her to find herself; but what if she does not like how she turned out to be? And what if she sacrificed more than just her youth to get to where she is now?

For the trope that this movie used to name, see Overnight Age-Up.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: The film begins with Jenna celebrating her 13th birthday in an attempt to be cool. It doesn't go well—no thanks to Lucy, her clique The Six Chicks, and Chris Grandy pranking her.
  • The '80s: The film starts off with a pre-teen Jenna celebrating her 13th birthday in 1987 with various shout-outs to the 80's including Madonna, Michael Jackson's Thriller, Rick Springfield and 80's fashion.
  • Age-Down Romance: Jenna is mystically flung into the future from her 13-year old self in the 1980s to her 30-year old self in the mid-2000s. She has some trouble getting used to the change, and her best friend even has to intervene when she starts chatting up a 13-year old boy at a party. Still, the only person she's really comfortable pursuing a relationship with is her now grown-up childhood friend Matt, who is already engaged to someone else.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Tom-Tom (a.k.a. Lucy) in her high school days. She's the leader of her mean girl clique The Six Chicks and manipulates Jenna into doing whatever makes herself happy. She also pranks Jenna, ruins her birthday party, and sabotages her job at Poise Magazine and takes everything. Until Jenna goes back into the 1980's and ruins Lucy.
    • Jenna ended up replacing her in this role in high school when she becomes leader of the Six Chicks.
  • Amnesiacs are Innocent: Jenna doesn't remember the last 17 years of her life, so she acts like a sweet little girl, rather than the jerkass she ended up becoming.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Jenna's boss Richard, who doesn't have a girlfriend, knows a lot about fashion, speaks in a slightly effeminate (British) accent and asks Jenna if Matt is an "Arthur or Martha?" or in his words if Matt is gay. This prompts Jenna to ask if he's gay. Richard just smiles and keeps on giggling.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • With the original Jenna. Due to the ambiguity of the situation, it is difficult to determine if she suffers from amnesia, was really possessed by her younger version, or in case it was a dream, there was never an "original Jenna" to begin with.
  • Ambition Is Evil: So, you want to be thirty AND have money AND power AND boobs? Absurd. The only way you'll ever have all that is if you became a Class A Bitch.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Jenna has no memory of her life between being 13 and 30, and gradually learns that her future self may have a lot going for her but she became an Alpha Bitch in high school, very cynical in the magazine world, cheats on her boyfriend with a married man and was actually the one leaking projects to the rival magazine to position herself to become an editor.
  • An Aesop:
    • Don't be in such a hurry to grow up.
    • Don't try to be with the "in-crowd".
    • Being a grown-up is not all what a kid can assume it will be.
    • Keep your true childhood friends close and beware of toxic friend influences.
    • You can't turn back time because once it's done, it's done and you can't change it. It's sad but it's true.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Jenna delivers one to Matt, right before his wedding. Unfortunately, he turns her down as the damage to their friendship is already done no thanks to Lucy and Jenna's bullying and because he loves his fiancée Wendy.
    Jenna: [in tears] I love you, Matt. You're my best friend.
    Matt: Jenna...I always loved you.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The film's events are set in motion by "magic dust."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The plot point of the film. After her birthday party is disrupted by her "supposed" friend Lucy and the Six Chicks, Jenna blames Matt and wishes to be "30, flirty, and thriving". Unfortunately she soon discovers culture shock due to being mentally time-traveled to 2004 and that being a grown-up isn't all fabulous as she believed it was going to be.
  • Bed Trick: A PG version, at Jenna's party. Lucy blindfolds Jenna and puts her in the closet, promising that her crush Chris Grandy wants to kiss her and "go for second base". As soon as she closes the door, she and the party of Six Chicks decide to ditch Jenna and see if Lucy's brother could get beer while Lucy tricks Matt into taking Chris' place by snobbishly telling him that Jenna's waiting for him in the closet. It almost works, and it's devastating, as it contributed to Matt and Jenna's friendship downfall.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Jenna plants one on Matt upon returning to her birthday party in 1987 to fix her mistakes.
  • Brainy Brunette: Jenna, of course. Yes, she may have turned out to be a 30-year-old bitch, but she certainly isn't dumb.
  • Break the Cutie: Even though Jenna brought her misfortunes on herself, her realization of all the bad things she’s done (from abandoning her real best friend, to joining the school’s bullies, to cutting off almost all ties with her family, to her ‘friends’ conspiring against her behind her back, to siding with Poise’s rival company to cheating on her boyfriend with her co-worker’s husband) is certainly an excruciating experience for anyone, especially a 13-year-old girl (in a 30-year-old’s body). But wait, there’s more! The real Break-the-Cutie moment is when Jenna admits doing all these bad things to Matt saying she’s not a good person and not 13 anymore leading up to the Vienna montage and the scene of her crying in a Troubled Fetal Position in the exact closet where it all started before her parents open the door to be hugged by their daughter who previously gave them the cold shoulder and her fear of storms causing her to seek refuge in her parent’s bed. She may be a gorgeous, successful businesswoman but in her mind and heart, she’s still a naïve, loving and scared young girl who’s in way over her head. All for the awful, inexcusable crime of wanting to be "30, flirty and thriving".
  • Bully Turned Buddy: Seventeen years into the future, Jenna learns that former Alpha Bitch of her school (who played a mean prank on her just recently) Lucy is now her best friend. Subverted, though; Lucy ends up backstabbing Jenna and early on in the film Jenna overhears Lucy plotting her downfall.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Lucy pulls a prank by putting a blindfolded Jenna in the closet with the promise that Chris Grandy want to participate in Seven Minutes In Heaven with her. Once Jenna is left inside, Lucy gets her gang together and they decide to ditch Jenna and her party for alcohol.
  • Career Versus Man: Jenna has to choose: She gets True Love, or she gets a good job and a lot of money. There's more to the plot than that, but these are pretty much the basics of it.
  • Casting Gag: Judy Greer admits to being a nerd in her teen years, which is surprising that she plays the grown-up Alpha Bitch. She shared pictures of herself at that age on the DVD special features.
  • Cerebus Call-Back: The dream house Matt makes for Jenna's birthday is subject to two. It's introduced in a comical yet sweet scene. Later on in the film we find out that apparently Jenna threw the house at him after thinking he scared away the party guests. Also after Matt refuses to leave Wendy she begs to have the house as something to remember him by and cries while looking at it.
  • Character Development: Jenna realizes that maybe there's more to life than money and success. She also realizes that popularity is overrated and comes to regret her treatment of Mattie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The letter from Sparkle that we see in Jenna's mail early on. Also, the magic wishing dust and the pink dollhouse Matt gave to Jenna on her 13th birthday.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: It is evident at the start of the film that Matt had a crush on Jenna when they were kids. They grew apart after the Time Skip, but they were reunited and started to have romantic feelings for each other. They got married at the end of the film.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: In this case, Jenna kind of corrupts herself, but... In 1987, the more Jenna tries to become "cool" like Lucy and the Six Chicks, the more she becomes snobbish and superficial. It works unfortunately as 30-year-old has discovered about herself in the present day that she pushed Matt away, stopped talking to her parents and cheated on her boyfriend with her co-worker's husband. Fortunately, she gets a second chance when she is returned to her 13 year-old self.
  • Dance Line: Jenna does this during the Thriller dance part at the Poise magazine party. It saves the day.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the cast, but Mattie has some of the best lines.
    You were playing that game, what was it, Spin the Rapist?
  • Distaff Counterpart: The film is Big, for girls.
  • Doting Parent: Jenna's parents still dote on her, even if she's snobbish and trying to become like Lucy and the other Six Chicks. Even when she grew into a successful but snobby adult, they still care for their daughter when she returns to them for support.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After the Time Skip, the adult Jenna spends most of the movie trying to reconnect with the adult Matt, while also trying to make amends for her backstabbing ways. At the end, the magazine she was working for went under because Tom-Tom stole her original adult self's idea to steal the magazine's pieces, and uses it as a bargaining chip for a better paid position at rival company Sparkle. When she goes to his wedding she confesses her love for Matt, only for him to tell her you can't rewind time and he's in love with Wendy, and is going to marry her in few minutes. Jenna breaks down crying, and magically goes back to 1987 thanks to residual magic dust on the dollhouse Mattie made for her. When Mattie opens the closet door she kisses him, tells off Tom-Tom, and flash forward in 2004, she and Matt are happily married and have just bought a house similar to the dollhouse he made her.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • Tom-Tom for Lucy Wyman. I mean, Tom-Tom?
    • Not that Jenna's is any better – "Sweetbottom"?
    • And Matt's junior high nickname was "Beaver".
  • Emotional Torque: The always present Aaaaaaaw Sound, mostly. Specially at the end, when the Loving Couple finally get together.
  • Ethical Slut: While not a particularly fleshed out character, Jenna's hockey-player boyfriend, Alex seems to fit the bill. Despite sending lewd messages to Jenna at work, and joking to strangers that how he doesn't autograph butts, Alex seems like he has standards when it comes to sexual intercourse. This is demonstrated when Jenna goes to Alex's apartment, he makes it clear that he wants to go to 2nd base (or possibly even 3rd base) with her, but Jenna is clearly uncomfortable (as a 13-year-old girl in a 30-year-old's body would be). But even though he talks to her almost exclusively in sexual innuendos and even strip dances for her, it's implied that they didn't have sex, if Jenna's nonchalant attitude the next morning talking to Becky indicates. It shows that while Alex may be a bit of a horn-dog, he respects Jenna's feelings and opinions, and likes/values (maybe loves) Jenna for her.
  • Evil All Along: The original adult Jenna turns out to be the spy who was selling ideas to the competition.
  • Fan Disservice: Alex's striptease for Jenna in his underwear set to Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" is cringe worthy and very awkward as Jenna is visibly uncomfortable and demands he put his clothes back on (given that she's a 13-year-old in her 30-year-old body).
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: During the present day, Matt and Jenna slowly start falling in love with one another as he helps her with her redesign idea. Starting from their first kiss at the park to their shooting the photos for Poise magazine's redesign set to "Why Can't I?" by Liz Phair.
  • Fashion Magazine: Poise magazine, which Jenna reads as a teen and eventually works for as an adult.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Jenna goes from being a teen in The '80s to being an adult during the Turn of the Millennium. The movie ignores many of the problems (and humor) which might result from the Time Travel aspect of the plot. Is Jenna going around as a 30-year-old high-powered magazine editor in 2004 thinking the Soviet Union still exists or that Michael Jackson is still black? Who knows? It's never brought up. However, a few jokes are brought up: she doesn't initially know what a cell phone ringing is, and she thinks Eminem is the candy brandnote .
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Jenna awakens as a 30-year-old woman in her apartment, she goes through her mail and a letter from Sparkle Magazine addressed to her can briefly be seen with a pause button. Also counts as Foreshadowing.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: For a freelance photographer and a magazine editor who live single in NYC, both Jenna and Matt have pretty posh apartments. And their "dream house" when they get married also seems pretty upscale (although there's no way of knowing if they ended up with different jobs in the new timeline).
  • Future Me Scares Me: Played with; Jenna's future doesn't explicitly scare her, but as time goes on, she realizes that she doesn't like what she's become.
  • Genki Girl: Jenna as an adult. Being an extravagant and cheerful girl. Totally avoided with the original Jenna, who was a Jerkass.
  • Girl Next Door: Jenna and Matt grew up next door to each other. Literally, as their big houses are just right next to each others.
  • Girl Posse: The Six Chicks. A group of mean girls popular in middle school in 1987 and led by Alpha Bitch Lucy Wyman a.k.a Tom-Tom and later Jenna.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The original Jenna, She is responsible for the fact that the company is about to bankrupt, but since she ended up being possessed by her 13-year-old version, she does not make an appearance beyond photos.
  • Happily Ever After: After seeing the error of her ways, returning to 1987 due to the magic wishing dust, professing her love for Matt and humiliating Lucy/Tom-Tom, it flashes forward to the present where Jenna and Matt got married and live happily in a house similar to the pink Jenna dream house he made for her for her 13th birthday.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Jenna, whose weird behavior when she first "ages up" is explained away by Lucy as having drunk too much the night prior.
  • Home Sweet Home: When times get difficult for Jenna in 2004, she returns to her childhood home for her parent's comfort and advice. Also, when Jenna wishes to go back to being 13 again, she is brought back to her 13-year-old self in the closet at her birthday party and she couldn't be happier.
  • High School: The part between times of 1987 and 2004 that she doesn't remember, that is. Justified due to Jenna waking up from mental time travel and magic wishing dust. Matt fills her in on high school, saying how she was part of the Six Chicks and went to prom with Chris Grandy.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Jenna and Matt, obviously. Averted because the first time around, they stopped being friends. Jenna's "sweetheart" presumably was Chris, whom she took to prom.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Though not a dog owner herself, Jenna certainly plays this trope straight in both the "Good Day" montage and the "Why Can't I?" montage. There's a moment in the "Good Day" montage when Jenna is enjoying an ice cream cone in the park when she comes across a man walking 6 dogs (a Standard Poodle, a Golden Retriever, an Irish setter, a Coton de Tulear and 2 Shetland Sheepdogs)and she happily bends down to pet them. This leads to the Irish Setter reaching up to gobble Jenna's ice cream cone right out of her hand. Instead of getting angry at the dog or the owner, she just looks surprised, maybe even mildly amused. There's another more subtle instance during the "Why Can't I" montage where Matt is hinted to be a dog lover too. When photographing a high school football team during the montage, Matt is happily handing one of the players an English Bulldog (who's either the school's Team Pet or he could just belong to the kid). Fridge Heartwarming sets in when you realize that Jenna and Matt most likely agreed to the dog being in the picture, because not only would a dog be a great eye-catcher to readers, but also because they think that the dog is a big part of the team, also.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Jenna concerning Lucy. At first, Jenna believed Lucy to being a true friend. Then, she realizes how wrong she was to think Lucy was a friend and what a toxic influence she was after Lucy sabotages her and ruins her relationship with Matt.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
    Jenna: Look, I won't have you be late. Just go. Go on. I'm fine. I'm just crying because I'm happy. I want you to be so, so happy. I love you, Matt. You're my best friend.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Chris in 1987 is the hunky, longish-haired, blond jock that Jenna had a crush on and dated for a while. In 2004, he's 30 and lost his looks. He also looks more 40 than 30.
  • Informed Ability: Jenna's redesign proposal for Poise looks about like a 13-year-old's attempt at a photo collage of her friends. Justified? Well, not the part where it gets an ovation from a room full of media professionals and someone resorts to corporate espionage to rip it off for their own magazine.
  • Intertwined Fingers: When young Jenna is blindfolded in the closet and believes that Chris has come for her, she holds out her hands, and intertwines her fingers with Matt's, until Matt reveals that he is not Chris.
  • Ironic Echo: In the future, Lucy tells Jenna (after allegedly framing her for working against their magazine company) that now she can be the pot and the kettle all by herself. When Jenna wakes up in the present as her 13-year-old self, she tells off Lucy with these exact same words as she rips up the very homework young Lucy tried to steal as part of a mean prank.
  • Jailbait Taboo: Jenna (in her adult body) foolishly flirts with a kid rather than the adult man who just winked at her. She is instantly pulled away by Lucy, who lampshades this trope.
    Lucy: Do you want to go jail? I meant that guy!
    Jenna: The man? Oh, gross!
  • Just Friends: Jenna and Matt. At first, in both the 80's and the present day due to Jenna being unaware of Matt's crush on her.
  • Kick the Dog: After blindfolding Jenna and leaving her in the closet with the promise of Chris Grandy wanting to kiss her, Lucy gathers the Six Chicks and the party guests and decides to ditch Jenna and her birthday party just so they could have beer with her brother.
  • Market-Based Title: For no apparent reason, the movie was released in Australia and Brazil as Suddenly 30.
  • Mean Boss: The Original Jenna, if the initial reaction of her employees serves as an indication.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Lucy gets away with stealing Jenna's idea and giving it to the rival fashion magazine, but this is shortly before the timeline is reset.
  • Mental Time Travel: Feeling embarrassed at her birthday party, Jenna wishes to be "30, flirty and thriving". She gets her wish and awakens as a 30-year-old in the present day but still with the mentality of a 13-year-old where she learns about herself and attempts to fix her mistakes.
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller Parody: Jenna dances Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance in a nightclub, and this gets the party going... This could also be a Chekhov's Gag when we see her dancing by herself at her party in the beginning.
  • The Mole: The Original Adult Jenna, had been feeding a rival fashion magazine with ideas for articles that her magazine had been coming up with.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Considering the timing of Jenna's 'trip' forward and her 'return', it wouldn't be impossible to treat her experiences as a dream. Or did the magic wishing dust actually work?
  • Overnight Age-Up: The whole point of the film, as Jenna goes from her thirteenth birthday to being 30 (never specified if she's exactly 30 or just in that area)
  • Popular History: The version of 1987 in which 13-year-old Jenna lives like a modern-day '80s-themed party.
  • Popular Is Evil: It’s revealed that Jenna became mean and stuck-up after she finally achieved her teenage goal of joining the Six Chicks, all the way from junior high to her high-powered fashion career.
  • Race for Your Love: Jenna rushing to catch Matt at his wedding. Even skipping a taxi and running past train tracks. All set to "Jesse's Girl" by Rick Springfield.
  • Reset Button: The wishing dust allows Jenna to return to her 13-year-old self and do it all over again.
  • Ridiculously Successful Future Self: Jenna's future self has basically everything she wanted when she was thirteen, but it soon becomes clear that she got there through some significant failings as a person.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: When she magically turns 30, Jenna finds that she is a backstabbing businesswoman who drove away her parents and finds out that her friendship with Matt ended on her 13th birthday after Tom-Tom tricked them both into playing 7 minutes of heaven. She spends most of the movie apologizing to Matt and trying to amend her relationship with her parents, and even comes up with a plan to revive the magazine that she's working for. Unfortunately, the magazine folds because Tom-Tom stole Jenna's idea to take the magazine's materials and use it as bargaining chip for better salaried position at a rival publisher. When she goes home, Jenna confesses her love for Matt, only for him tell her that he's marrying someone else in a few minutes. After she breaks down crying she, goes back to her 13th birthday, and happily embraces Matt, tells off Tom-Tom and we see that back in 2004 they are happily married.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Jenna finds out that Matt is actually very tall and handsome after the Time Skip. Unfortunately, he is also engaged to someone else.
  • Showing Off the New Body: Jenna at one point squeezes her adult body's breasts, calling them "incredible."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jenna has a photo of Madonna in her room.
    • Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" plays on Jenna's TV and through a scene of the film where Jenna races to stop Matt's wedding in the present day.
    • Michael Jackson's "Thriller" plays on a TV set that 13-year-old Jenna dances to, and at the club 30-year-old Jenna dances to in the present day.
  • Sleep Mask: Used by Jenna when she wakes up as adult. Interestingly the mask adult Jenna uses to sleep with is made from the same scarf Lucy uses to blindfold her.
  • Stepford Smiler: Jenna, when she wakes up 30 years later, and finds out she is not the nice young girl she used to be. She spends quite a majority of her time smiling to avoid showing hurt, except to her parents and Matt.
  • The Reveal: Done twice because the first-time viewers in the audience wouldn't know the significance of the letter from the rival Sparkle magazine that turns up in her mail in the first reveal, either.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Jenna wishes to go back to 1987 and fix things, she gives Lucy a taste of her own medicene as she rips up her homework and splashes punch on her.
    Jenna: [to Lucy] You know what? You can be the pot and kettle all by yourself from now on, biatch!
  • Thirteenth Birthday Milestone: On Jenna's 13th birthday, she gets her wish to be "30, flirty, and thriving."
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Christa B. Allen as young Jenna, Sean Marquette as young Matt, and Alexandra Kyle as young Lucy.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The Original Jenna. She went from being a sweet girl to being a bad person who treats her employees badly and doesn't visit her family.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Lucy Wyman and The Six Chicks, who manipulate Jenna into doing their group project homework for them in exchange for her asking them to come to her birthday party. Lucy also takes advantage of Jenna's good nature and tries to get her to push her childhood friend Matt away from her and be more "cool" like a Six Chick.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Jenna found out she didn't turn out right as a grown-up. She cut off contact with her parents and Matt, had an affair with her co-workers husband, cheats on her boyfriend, becomes a toxic influence thanks to Lucy and she was secretly sabotaging Poise by working for its rival magazine.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Achieving this requires learning some hard lessons. Matt and Jenna become this to one another as she goes back in time and fixes things between them.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Jenna's boyfriend performs a striptease for her in his underwear, in a awkward very-not-sexy scene.
  • Wham Line: "Sparkle Magazine? Trosh Sackett please."
  • Wham Shot: The Sparkle Magazine letters addressed to Jenna in the present.
  • When She Smiles: Lucy gets one. Throughout the film if 'smiling' at all, she is either smirking or has an obviously fake smile plastered over her face. However, when Jenna plays Thriller in the club, Lucy breaks into a massive happy grin and giddily runs off to join the dancing.