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In 1987, 13 year-old Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) wants to be part of the cool group at school. Inviting the cool girls to her birthday party, Jenna is tricked into playing a cruel joke on her best friend Matt (Sean Marquette). Later at the party she is sprinkled with magic dust and Jenna (Jennifer Garner) wakes up to discover she is suddenly 30 years old. Trapped inside her grown-up body, Jenna quickly discovers that her life has become everything her teenage ideals rejected. Re-connecting with Matt (Mark Ruffalo), whom she abandoned many years previously, Jenna sets about correcting the mistakes she cannot remember making.

Review by Louise Keller:
Body-switch films can be fun; the key lies in the script and performances. Targeted for a young female audience, Suddenly 30 scores in the performance department with a delightful, dimpled turn by Jennifer Garner and solid charisma from Mark Ruffalo, but the script disappoints, with its inability to connect with reality. Never mind that it's derivative - after all, films like Freaky Friday, Big and Vice Versa give the concept a good name. The main problem lies in the development of the concept, and placing the characters into situations that are not sustainable.

In the early scenes when we meet 13 year old gauche Jenna ('I don't want to be original, I want to be cool'), we are never given a chance to believe in her relationship with Matt (nickname Beaver), the plump boy next door. We are told he is her best friend, but the bond between the two is not properly established. As the storyline relies on this as the most important element in the film, the casting of the young Matt is also crucial; it is a big leap to believe that the pudgy, uncool, awkward teen could turn into the thinking woman's sex symbol, Mark Ruffalo.

The best moments are those that ring true. There's a lovely scene when Jenna and Matt are eating red razzles (candy that doubles as gum). It seems like the most natural thing in the world that Jenna asks Matt if her tongue is red, and wants to see his tongue too. Jenna confiding 'love is a battlefield' to a group of wide-eyed 13 year olds also works well; we can truly believe that this is the kind of thing a 13 year old, trapped in a 30 year old body, would do. These are the moments, and not the divisive wishing dust and other contrivances, that inject momentary magic into Suddenly 30.

Director Gary Winick (Tadpole) handles the material with a light touch, but there are too many superficial moments and cheap laughs, like Jenna shrieking 'naked man' when she sees her live-in boyfriend in the bathroom and standing on the side of the road muttering 'excuse me', while trying to hail a cab. The scenes with sexual innuendo ('Let's play battleship'; 'I'll show you my destroyer') fall very flat, but the fantasy scenes (Jenna in a limo, shopping, selecting from her huge wardrobe of shoes and skimpy underwear) are Pretty Woman territory, providing the same kind of eye candy as you would expect from flicking through a glossy magazine at the hairdressers. But there are too many plot discrepancies and questions to which there are no answers.

Garner and Ruffalo make a good-looking couple and Garner, reminiscent of Julia Roberts, has plenty of fun with this comedic role. It's the instantly likeable Ruffalo, however, who gives the film heart. And in its own light-hearted way, the film offers an underlying moral about dreams and reality; who says you can't turn back the clock?

The DVD has plenty of bonus extras including two commentaries, two making-of features, bloopers and a segment in which Garner, Ruffalo and the cast talk about her geek-years. 'I think thirteen year olds get the short end of the stick; it is an awkward time physically,' Garner says, who hung out with thirteen year olds when researching the role, and found them to be both smart and sophisticated, but completely goofy as well.

Published January 6, 2005

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Samuel Ball

PRODUCER: Susan Arnold, Gina Matthews

DIRECTOR: Gary Winick

SCRIPT: Josh Goldsmith. Cathy Yuspa


EDITOR: Susan Littenberg

MUSIC: Theodore Shapiro


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (1.85/16:9)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Gary Winick, Audio commentary by producers Gina Matthews, Susan Arnold, Donna Arkott Roth; deleted scenes, extended scenes; behind the scenes;music videos; the 80s outfit challenge; I was a Teenage Geek

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertianment

DVD RELEASE: January 5, 2005

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