Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

Here's a film that needs to make up its mind. Its comic premise is a 13-year-old girl discovering her 30-year-old life, but it loses that perspective often as the adult subplots take on a life of their own. It sets up adolescence as a nightmare for its protagonist, then she spends the rest of the movie telling people how good it was. It cheers her innocent perspective for a business proposal, then teaches the teenagers in the audience that innocence gets you nowhere in business. And don't even get me started about its loose ends and forgotten characters. "Muddled" is the persistent mental state of this film, which I suspect is the result of focus-group tampering with the original screenwriters' vision.

That it is still as funny as it is gets credit for Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa's brisk screenplay and Jennifer Garner's complete devotion to the role. They see this character and her world in three dimensions, and are unafraid to make her the butt of some of the jokes herself. Garner is totally convincing in the part from the first word out of her mouth; she happily demonstrates the value of thorough rehearsals and giving a shit. Assuming her television schedule doesn't interfere, she has a real film career ahead of her in comedy and drama alike. For me the film had a good half-dozen belly laughs including a whopper at the end, but individual results may vary.

I couldn't help but be disappointed in the magazine subplot, on which the movie spends an inordinate amount of time but in which it is clearly not interested, judging by how it is immediately forgotten after it has served its purpose. The protagonist spends two weeks working hard on a business proposal, and we get intriguing hints of what it will turn out to be (not that it's hard to guess), and after all of that setup, what's the payoff? A half-assed, mumbling, incoherent, 30-second speech to her staff about the magic of adolescence, following by uproarious cheering and sobbing coworkers. What planet does this scene take place on? What connection to even the film's fantasty-reality does this moment have? I would guess that the entire original scene had been jettisoned at the last minute and they had, I dunno, two hours to write and film a new version before release, but the props are so carefully arranged that I must wonder if this scene was actually meant to play this way. In the movie's otherwise well-practiced comedy routine, this scene is a major stumble.

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