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Matt: You can't just turn back time.
Jenna: Why not?
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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 ages seventeen years in a blink and wakes up as 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 high school, helps her to find herself; but what if she does not like how she turned out to be?

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


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adorkable:
    • Teen!Jenna, both in the '80s and in 2004, and to a more meta extent, Jennifer Garner. If her utter enthusiasm and enjoyment of life doesn't get you, the Thriller dance will.
    • Jenna's hockey-player boyfriend.
      Want me to sign your shirt or something? I don't do butts.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
Jenna: (in tears) I love you, Matt. You're my best friend.
Matt: Jenna...I always loved you.
  • 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 naive, loving and scared young girl who’s in way over her head. All for the awful, inexcusable crime of wanting to be “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's been working against the fashion company they've been working for.
  • 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. Something more along the lines of Becoming A Better Person.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: During Time Skip, the adult Jenna spends most of the movie trying to reconnect with, and pying for, 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 idea to steal the magazine's pieces, and use it as a bargaining chip for a better paid position in rival company. When she goes home she confesses her love for Matt, only to tell her he's in love with someone else, and is going to marry her in few minutes, Jenna breaks down crying, and magically goes back to 1987. When Matt opens the door, she kisses him, tells off Tom-Tom, and back in 2004, she and Matt are happily married, and have bought a house similar to the dollhouse he made her.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • Tom-Tom. 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, and not for her pleasure-giving abilities.
  • Family Versus Career: 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.
  • 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 .
  • "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 realises that she doesn't like what she's become.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Jenna, whose weird behaviour when she first "ages up" is explained (by Lucy) as "You drink too much."
  • 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 may also be a Heroic Dog Lover also. When photographing a high school football team, 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. The house that Jenna and Matt move into at the end of the movie certainly looks big enough to house one or two dogs should they choose to own them in the future.
  • 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.
  • Jail Bait: 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!
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted (because Matt is not the protagonist) and downplayed, but Jenna is this for Matt. He's in a bad relationship, and she shows up and makes his dreams come true.
  • Market-Based Title: For no apparent reason, the movie was released in Australia and Brazil as Suddenly 30.
  • 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: Lucy, using Jenna's mailers, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 pying and apologizing to Matt, and trying to amend her reltionship with her parents, and even comes up with a plan to revive the magazine that she's working for. Unfortunately, the magazine folds becuase 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."
  • 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.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Christa B. Allen as young Jenna, Sean Marquette as young Matt, and Alexandra Kyle as young Lucy.
  • 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.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The events of the plot are brought about with the aid of... "magic dust"? As Roger Ebert remarked, "I think we have to let the movie get away with this."
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Matt and Jenna kiss during a romantic walk despite Matt being engaged and Jenna having a boyfriend.
    • At one point, Jenna finds out that she regularly cheats on her boyfriend with a co-worker's husband.

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