13 Going on 30

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for some sexual content and brief drug references.

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner

Moral Rating: Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Mature-Teens Adults
Genre: Comedy Romance Drama
Length: 1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release: 2004
USA Release:
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Featuring Jennifer Garner
Judy Greer
Andy Serkis
Susan Egan
Marcia DeBonis
Director Gary Winick — “Tadpole,” “The Tic Code,” “Sweet Nothing,” “Out of the Rain,” “Curfew”
Producer Donna Arkoff Roth
Susan Arnold
Donna Roth
Gina Matthews
Distributor Revolution Studios

Similar movies: “Little” (2019), 17 Again (2009)

The tagline reads “for most people it seems like yesterday, for Jenna Rink it was.” And although the plot of this film seems to be aimed more towards the younger crowd, there are MANY parts of this movie that can take us “older” ones back, just like it did for Jenna.

The movie opens in 1987. It’s Jenna’s 13th birthday, and it’s clear from the beginning that Jenna is stuck in the ever-present battle most of us have faced, the battle of fitting in with the “cool kids.” The things that seem to consistently stand in her way are her less than cool appearance (by her peer’s standards), her somewhat “geeky,” socially unaccepted best friend and neighbor Matt Flamhaff, and her parents who she is clearly embarrassed by. All of Jenna’s hopes seem to be riding on her non-parentally supervised birthday party that the cool girls (as well as the hot guys) all agreed to come to.

You clearly see Jenna struggle to be accepted, and finally choose mean-spirited popularity and acceptance over her best friend. Young kids, primarily girls, watching this movie will be able to relate at this point. To really “connect” with the place that this character is at.

The party turns for the worst and Jenna is left feeling broken, crying in a closet, just wishing that this would end—that she could just grow up, be 30, flirty, successful, and voilà! She (Jennifer Garner) awakens the next morning as a beautiful, successful 30 year old who seems to have it all.

Throughout the story Jenna sees that her life at 30 is nothing like she thought it would be. It does not take long for Jenna to seek out her best friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo) who she soon finds out is no longer a friend at all; they had in fact parted ways after her 13th birthday party. Jenna continues to create ways to see him and soon realizes that her heart wanted to choose him all along; however, it seems too late as she learns that Matt is 2 weeks away from his wedding—to a girl you want to hate (because you like Jenna), but can’t help but like.

Written by Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, (“What Women Want”) and produced by Susan Arnold and Donna Arkoff Roth (“Forces of Nature,” “America’s Sweethearts,” and “Benny and Joon”), this movie is a triumphant story of redemption, true class (and not the “5th Avenue” kind of class), and yes, in true “chick flick” fashion, it is last but not least, a story about love. There is much to laugh at, grow teary-eyed at, and especially dance and sing along with, as it has a fabulous soundtrack straight out of the 80’s!

As I have already mentioned, this movie appears to be aimed more for the middle school to high school crowd. Although overall, this movie remains relatively innocent, I would caution parents to really know your teens before allowing them to see it. There is content that would need to be viewed by a more emotionally mature teen. For example, from the beginning, her boyfriend (it is obvious that a physical relationship existed between him and Jenna prior to the timeline of this film) calls her “sweet bottom” and seems to be completely sex obsessed with her. Every time he sees her, calls her, etc., it seems to be all he can think/talk about.

The 30 year old Jenna works for a fashion magazine. During a meeting about cover stories, there are many ideas “tossed out there” that involve sexual dialog ranging from butts, to breasts to orgasms—though in defense of the film I took this as joking (“poking fun”) at the fashion magazines that run stories like that.

It is made clear at one point in the film that Jenna had been having an affair with a co-workers husband. Jenna is also a “partier/heavy drinker” and is not at all monogamous to her boy friend.

The Lord’s name is taken in vain several times and there is some profanity. It is not rampant throughout the film, and I think that is why when it does appear, it seems louder and more harsh.

There is no nudity in this movie, though there is a scene where Jenna’s boyfriend attempts to do a strip tease for her, but it only shows him down to his underwear. There is also a scene where he is walking around in a towel and drops it just as an umbrella pops up to block his genitals.


I loved this movie! It was fun, entertaining and left me with a great feeling. More so though, it reminded me of a time when I also wished to be an adult so that I could be done with the dramas of adolescence. Life was supposed to be better then, wasn’t it? Throughout this story, Jenna begins to see how heartless, selfish and even vindictive she had grown to be, and she does not want to be that person. “13 Going on 30” is a beautiful story of forgiveness, second chances, accepting others for who they are and making the best out of wherever we are in life.

If you feel your teen can handle the objectionable content in this film, then I encourage it, because it has lessons and realities that today’s youth need to learn.

Violence: None / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This film was a nice reminder of how easy it is to loose focus of what is important in life. All though there is some language and drinking, overall the objectionable material is very limited. The over-all message of this movie is a positive portrait of the true meaning of friendship and happiness.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Jaime Swaffar, age 27
Positive—My husband and I went and saw this movie for our anniversary. I had to do some hard talking to get him to go to it, and he was glad that I did. I like Jennifer Garner in the first place, and she did a good job of showing what the innocence should be in a 13 year old girl. As the reviewer pointed out there was some objectional material in the movie, but the way that she responded to it was that it grossed her out, which is how 13-year old girls should respond (but sometimes because of our cultural don’t). The aspect that I enjoyed in this movie was the difficulty that it showed of teenagers (and older people) having the problem of wanting to please man and fit in where they think it is cool. The film I think was realistic in its portrayal of how some people can act in order to be “cool.” It did a good job of showing if we make the wrong choices that may seem right at the time, how wrong they actually are in terms of what it does to the relationships that we hold dear.

It amazes me about myself that in trying to please people that I perceive as being popular, I will hurt those that I love most. That is when I know that my heart is not in relationship with God, but with sin. I would recommend that parents take their teenage children to this movie, as could produce some good conversation about relationships and wanting to be part of what we think is cool, to find out only later that it isn’t. Sometimes, by the time we find out, it is too late and the one’s that we really love are already gone.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Pamela Allen, age 37
Positive—As someone who was a young girl in 87, I really enjoyed watching this movie. I think it made some really good points about the inaccuracy of our perceptions as teenagers (Jenna wants to be thirty, flirty, and thrilling after looking at a Cosmo-type mag). I agree with other viewers that the target audience should not be teens. I work at a elementary school and I told them about the references to Pat Benatar (love is a battlefield), and they failed to see why it was funny. Because of the sexual content and profanity, I don’t recommend this movie for teens. Plus, the 80s stuff is way over their head. My philosophy is if you over 10 in the 80s you’ll thoroughly enjoy this movie.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Ebony Gwyn, age 26
Positive—I loved this movie!!! I went to see it last night with a girlfriend. I could relate to the movie so much, as I think that any young girl watching the film could. There was a few times that I did not like the talk or language, like in a conference and there was talk of sex and orgasms. But the reaction that came from Jenna was that of disgust and that is the way that it should be. Jenna learned that it is not always important to be popular and she learned about real love. she learned what was important in life, and what she needed to change to make her life right. She got a second chance with love, friendship, and hurting people including her parents. I think that we all can relate because I think that all of us if we could would go back and change something in our lives. I would recommend that everyone go see this, although it is absolutely a chick flick.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
Brenda Hauck, age 28
Positive—Great nostalgia! This film brought back a lot of great memories and contained a lot of great music. It also contained a very good, very Christian message, that you don’t have to “follow the crowd” and that it’s NOT cool to put down others to boost yourself up. A fun film, appropriate for the whole family. Young girls struggling with peer pressure should especially check this one out.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
Kat, age 18
Positive—What a CUTE movie! I found so little to be objectionable in this film that I enjoyed the entire thing. I laughed the whole way through, and there was little to disagree about, content-wise. I recommend this movie to all women who want to have a “girl’s night.”
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
Sherilyn, age 18
Positive—I enjoyed this movie so much that I bought the DVD! There are a few scenes that are objectionable, but I thought that it could have easily been PG had a few lines been left out. I thought the message of the movie, that what we want isn’t always virtuous or desirable, was a valuable one. Also, I was a bit surprised that a Hollywood movie stresses relationships with people over glitzy glamorous jobs! Maybe that’s why a lot of main stream reviewers panned this film. I think it’s one of the better movies I’ve seen this year and I’ve enjoyed watching it with my children (who are older… I don’t think this would be a good movie for kids under 8 or 9, depending on your child).
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
Kris, age 44
Neutral—No one mentioned the problem with the verbal sado masochist innuendos… It is almost socially accepted and even expected for a man to be kicked in the groin, or at least references made to it such as in this one where there were several reference to it. Is it not time to value all our people and not give permission for anyone to be violent to anyone else… female… OR male?
Kenneth Deemer, Shattered Men
Neutral—My wife and I went to see this movie last night and it was really good. We laughed a lot, but we could have done without some of the sexual content that this movie had in it. I do not like to watch movies that I cannot learn from. This film really taught me a lot. Like to be myself and not try to be someone I am not, enjoy my youth and do not grow up to fast and always remember choices today effect your future. Good movie, but some sexual content.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
Joshua Busby, age 22
Negative—…It looked like a cute movie. The ads that I saw were geared towards preteen and high school girls. I work with teenagers and wanted to preview this movie before bringing the girls to see it. When I went, the room was filled with preteen girls, just as I had expected! While watching the movie I noted the reactions of my fellow movie watchers. They didn’t seem to understand the 80s references that were scattered throughout the movie. Also many of the girls squirmed in there seats when the boyfriend walks out in the towel and then when it drop. Several girls also nervously laughed when the boyfriend was doing the striptease.

While it was a cute romantic comedy for adults.I feel that it was unfairly marketed to preteen/teen girls. I would not recommend this movie for children under 17 years old. I did not end up taking any of the teens I work with to the movie. I felt that the more conservative parents would object to it.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
Emily Whitehill, age 24
Comments from young people
Positive—I enjoyed “Thirteen Going on 30” because I felt that it was “different” from other films in its genre. The plot was clever, and I loved the ending (it is not entirely predictable, although you have a general idea of what is going to happen). Jennifer Garner does a fabulous job playing the part of a thirteen year old in a thirty year old body. I didn’t “get” all the 80’s references, but there were some things (like 80’s hair and clothes, especially the 80’s clothes!) that highly entertained me and my friends. There are a some scenes/lines of dialogue that are not too “good.” However,I was happily surprised that Jenna was horrified at the wrong things her adult self was doing (such as having a live-in boyfriend, having an affair, disloyalty to her company) instead of being okay with it.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie. It shows how transistory beauty and popularity really are, and how important loyalty and true friendship really is.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Chantal, age 17
Positive—This movie was very funny and upbeat. It is, however, definitely geared towards people 13 and over due to some sensuality (it is a romantic comedy) and a very brief drug reference. It did, though, have a good message and was very well done. I think a lot of people can relate to the theme of the movie, which is wanting to be something you’re not because something else looks better at the time.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Lisa Kessel, age 16
Positive—A light and airy film with little objectionable material. Jennifer Garner’s charm will leave you with a smile on your face.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Jonathan, age 15
Positive—…so comical and good. The only negative material in it I think was probably how she had a live-in boyfriend, how her boss was gay, and the language. Other wise I thought this movie was great. I would recommend it for anyone from 12 and up.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
Austin, age 12
Positive—This was a great movie! I went with my youth group leader and one of my friends, because they are doing the movie reviews for a magazine we are going to distribute to churches in our area. We all loved the movie. We also laughed, even when sometimes it probably wasn’t supposed to be funny, like when Jenna says she’s friends with Madonna and how cool it is. Some things were inappropriate, sure, but, it was still a great movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
Katie Orlando, age 13
Positive—“13 Going on 30” is very funny. In fact, I found myself wanting more and more of it. But, of course with Hollywood there is a downside. Jennifer Garner’s character, Jenna, has a live in boyfriend, an affair with a married man, and she does not dress modestly while she is 30. The plus to it all though, is that she realizes that this is not the kind of life she wants to live. I won’t give away the ending, but do know that the impure content, though unnecessary, does develop the person that she becomes, and later on shows that young Jenna wanted to be a moral person as an adult. Anyone older than 13 or 14 should see this with parents’ permission. It is very true to life, and teaches a lesson: We are responsible for what we become as adults, so we should lead Christian lives as kids.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Mariette, age 14
Positive—I thought this was a really good movie. There was one questionable part in it, a guy just starts dancing and taking off his shirt. That was the only thing that I didn’t really care for about this movie. Other than that, I thought it was a well done movie. The ending was awesome.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Jennifer Anderson, age 17
Positive—This was a really good movie! I loved it!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
Grace, age 14
Positive—I loved this film. It was so cute. The whole plot was great. There was only one scene that I found objectionable. Thankfully, it lasted only a few seconds and wasn’t so bad that it ruined the whole movie. It had a very good moral. It showed that we should always be appreciative of what we have and how we shouldn’t envy others or be someone we’re not. I love this movie and look forward to watching it again.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
Adison, age 16
Positive—I definitely enjoyed this movie. While there was a bit of objectional content, the sexual references, and especially the swearing, I thought it was all handled really well. Jenna’s innocence makes it all seem rather ridiculous and immature, which is how I think we should view those types of things. It had a good lesson and an excellent ending, and really shows how it is so much more important to stick with the friends we have that truly care about us than to try to fit in with the “in” crowd. As a girl in high school, I definitely related with Jenna’s feelings and the choice she had to make. I would recommend this movie to anyone.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
Emily, age 14
Positive—Sometimes they talked about stuff that kids shouldn’t hear. Other than that it wasn’t that bad. It had some sexual humor. I wouldn’t take your kids to it if you were confused to take your kids or not. See the movie before you take kids 11 and under. 12 maybe. You decide.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
Ashley, age 12
Positive—…this movie was pretty well done. It’s getting nearly impossible to find a movie with NO objections these days, and this one is definitely not perfect, but compared to most movies, I didn’t find it that offensive. I thought it was REALLY funny and had a good ending.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Mary Beth, age 15
Positive—I loved this movie. It was so funny. Jennifer Garner was… perfect for the part… my mom loved it because it had all the 80’s music and stuff in it…
My Ratings: [Good/5]
Kirstin, age 13
Positive—Wow!! “13 Going on 30” was such a great movie!! I saw it at Target a while ago and bought it for 5 bucks, expecting it to be a fairly decent movie. With less cuss words and profanitys then I thought, I watched it, and never really felt uncomfortable. There are a few words, and a couple scenes are a lil uncomfortable, but over all this is a good overall movie for teens and adults.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Emily, age 13 (USA)
Movie Critics
…adult Jenna’s partying and live-in boyfriend will pose a problem for younger viewers…
…Amusing, charming and pleasantly nostalgic… You don’t have to be a teen to enjoy “13 Going on 30”…
Claudia Puig, USA Today
…Garner’s vulnerable, winning performance strikes emotional chords (not to mention nostalgia) in this fantasy comedy… a lot of heart and a surprisingly moving ending…
Ellen A. Kim, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
…a surprisingly charming and fresh comedy… a very fine comedienne with an extraordinary knack for moving and sounding like a real teenager…
Jonathan Foreman, New York Post
…a spirited comedy of complications whose derivative plot is bolstered by worthy messages, quaint 80s nostalgia and agreeable mush…
Bruce Westbrook, Houston Chronicle
…Although it’s basically BIG (1988) with a girly twist, this sprightly coming-of-age-too-soon comedy rises above its derivative concept by virtue of a well-cast ensemble…
Angel Cohn, TV Guide