The intelligent rom-com appreciates the importance of pandering equally to both the in-tune-with-her-emotions lady and the whey-faced gent beside her. 13 Going On 30 is one such specimen. For Sir: a surprisingly sharp script pedalling a nice line in well-aimed '80s nostalgia. For Madam: a sweet, convincing romance between a pair of actors who appear to genuinely like each other. For him: a veritable Garner-rama, including a particularly, er, `charming' sequence in which the pouting Alias star prances around in her tiny PJs. For her: a well-stocked plate of Ruffalo-wings, the rough-hewn, unconventionally handsome male lead coming across like a Tiny Toon incarnation of Sly Stallone. With several side orders of charisma.
It's easy to be cynical about 13 Going On 30, even easier to pick watermelon-sized holes in the garbled message it sends out. Example: when Jenna and Matt are teenagers, she can barely bring herself to touch him, largely on account of his trembling gut and duelling chins. Once she discovers that he's grown up to be slim and successful, however, she's all over him like stink on a monkey. The moral? That it's okay to date the unfortunate-of-face, so long as you have it on good authority that Old Father Time is planning an extensive makeover. It's also shamelessly derivative - Big in a wig, basically - and easier to predict than Tim Henman's chances at Wimbledon.
But then you get caught in the glare of Garner's 20,000-watt smile and your stony-eyed resistance melts away. No doubt about it, Gary Tadpole Winick's captivating rom-com is the movie that finally confirms the suspicion that this particular big-screen fish is now an inch too large for her small-screen pond. Garner is magnetic, sexy, funny and earnest, leading us by the snout to the inevitable comparison with a certain Pretty Woman. None of which is to suggest that Garner is the new Julia Roberts. Far from it. Rather, she's the old one, the innocent Julia you fell in love with before she became self-important.
Heir to Roberts' throne or not, it's clear that far bigger movies than this await our bee-stung heroine. Note to Garner: life begins at 30. Now make yours count.
Garner makes the most of this humble, good-natured rom-com, propelling it from the minor leagues to the majors. You want a date movie? You got it.