friday night movie club

13 Going on 30 Was Almost, Uh, Not Very Good

I’ll have an apple martini. Wanna see my ID? Totally have it. Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing

13 Going on 30 is a movie about alternate realities. Specifically, an alternate reality in which 13-year-old Jenna Rink grows up to be hot and cool and Jennifer Garner, and also a fairly terrible person. The morale, of course, is that none of it is worth it if you don’t actually like yourself and don’t have anyone — ahem, Mark Ruffalo — to share your success with, so you should run straight to your parent’s house in suburban New Jersey where some magical dust — the same magical dust that whisked you from age 13 to 30 — will transport you back to being a teen so you can live your life over again and this time not suck at it, e.g., marry Mark Ruffalo.

So it seems only fitting that in anticipation of Vulture’s Friday Night Movie Club viewing of the film, I take you on a journey to an alternate reality where the opening and closing scenes of 13 Going on 30 look a little different. In an interview back in 2019 celebrating the movie’s 15th anniversary, two of the actresses who played members of the mean-girls clique, the “Six Chicks,” mentioned that they had to reshoot their scenes for the movie. “It was actually pretty bizarre because the set was exactly the same, but the cast was suddenly new, and they even changed our wardrobe and our hairstyles,” said Alexandra Kyle, who played the group’s leader, Tom Tom. I didn’t think much of the admission until earlier this week, when I was writing about the Six Chicks — Brie Larson and Ashley Benson were also members — and I discovered the unused scenes are on YouTube in all their horrifying glory.

Here, the bones of the movie are very much the same: Awkward teenage girl desperate to grow up. Dorky best friend who is clearly stupid in love with her. Well-meaning but misguided parents. Teenage bullies. Except take the details you know and love and make them about a thousand times cringier. Watching the clip is sort of like waking up in your house and everything and everyone that should be in it is still there, except they all look just different enough to make you feel like you’re losing your mind. There’s still a 10-year-old girl playing with a dog, but they’re neither your sister nor the family pet, even though the generalities — brown hair and blue eyes for both, braces for just the former — remain intact.

This opening sequence is also longer. The torture of remembering what it was like be be 13 drags on and on. “It’s so you won’t eat your hair and … because you’re pretty in pink,” Matt tells Jenna as he gifts her a ribbon for her birthday. He starts singing the opening lick from “Centerfold,” a preview of the “Weird Al”–style parody he’s written for the occasion. She shushes him. Sorry, wait, we need to go back a minute. IT’S SO YOU WON’T EAT YOUR HAIR! IT’S SO YOU WON’T EAT YOUR HAIR! It’S So YoU WoN’t EaT YoUr HaIr!!!! In the version that made it to the film, we get a Matt — Matty, really — who is nerdy but in the way you just know he’s going to grow up to be cool. He doesn’t call the Six Chicks “mean,” like Matty 1.0. He calls them clones. He’s a man ahead of his time.

And instead of “Head Over Heels” by The Go-Go’s as the Six Chicks strut down the hallway, we hear the same scary synth music that plays toward the end of the movie as Tom Tom presents her rebranding idea for Poise, the magazine where she and Jenna both work. The one where she’s all like “it will do heroin chic ten times over” and “it will kill” and everybody else in the room is looking at her like she’s Medusa. (A brief pause to note in another deleted scene, in which Jenna gives her pitch for the new Poise, she says the words “I’m sorry, I’ve done this whole speech and I didn’t even think about layouts or stories and I don’t know what cover line or theme is right.” And then the room begins to … applaud? Because she gave this whole speech but did not actually think about any of the things necessary to make a magazine?) Tom Tom’s catchphrase, “Fabuloso,” clunks to the hallway floor as soon as it leaves her mouth. The whole thing, to quote one of the video’s comments, “looks like some teenagers tried to re-create [the movie].”

The differences continue: Jenna’s mom notices her daughter is wearing a bra but doesn’t notice it’s stuffed full of tissues, as she does in the final cut of the film. There’s a giant bouncy castle on the front lawn of their house. “Surprise,” her parents yell, “Remember, you always wanted a moon bounce, honey!” Down in the basement, where Jenna’s hosting her party, are Matty, her one real friend, and the Six Chicks — with the popular boys in tow — who have only shown up to pick up a paper Jenna wrote for them. The kids pull the same “why don’t we play Seven Minutes in Heaven, you go wait in the closet first” trick on Jenna, who, as in the final movie, bashes her body against the wall, causing wishing dust to fall on her head and set off the whole time-warp thing. But, but in this edit, she wails, “I wish my life was different! I hate being 13! Nobody could ever like me. I wish I had a new life!” Which is, frankly, a little on the nose even for a movie that is basically a “Big” facsimile. (Plus she’s not blindfolded. How are we supposed to be excited when the same wavy pattern reappears on her sleeping mask as an adult? Or that the colors perfectly match the dress she wears the night of the big party where she convinces Andy Serkis and all of New York’s publishing elite to do “Thriller” because media parties are actually boring as hell!) More importantly, she does not say that she wants to be “30 and flirty and thriving.” 13 Going on 30 without “30 and flirty and thriving?” Sacrilege.

The movie’s closing scenes — the part where it jumps back to the ’80s — are likewise awkward. Jenna runs upstairs, after telling off Tom Tom and introducing the term “beyotch” into the lexicon a decade or so early, and immediately tells her mom and dad how much she loves them. In one of the funnier lines that doesn’t make the final film, she tells her dad to “buy Microsoft … now.” She and Matt jump on the moon bounce — neither removes their shoes, a cardinal sin of bounce houses — and then the jumpers switch from the child actors to Garner and Ruffalo in a wedding dress and a tux. (You can still spot the harnesses on them from shooting the scene.) That’s it. That’s the end. No front-yard wedding. No moving into a pink house that looks exactly like the Jenna Dreamhouse Matt made as a birthday gift all those years ago. No Madonna singing “Crazy for You.”

Fortunately for you, and me, a person who has watched this movie easily 50 times, all of this got a little magical dust — time, money, different actors, better music cues — sprinkled over it to become the 13 Going on 30 you know and probably vaguely remember loving ten years ago. See you all tonight to watch that version. Blue eyeshadow and tissue-stuffed bras encouraged.

13 Going on 30 Was Almost, Uh, Not Very Good