13 Going on 30 (2004)
★★★ / ★★★★
Jenna was a thirteen-year-old girl who desperately wanted to belong in a clique led by a typical mean girl, unaware that her best friend had a crush on her. During Jenna’s ruined birthday party, she desperately wished that she was thirty and thriving; she woke up the next morning in a completely different body (Jennifer Garner) and had no memory of what happened in her life since her terrible 13th birthday party. She had to learn a lot of things such as her best friend being no longer the guy who truly cared for her (Mark Ruffalo) but the mean girl (Judy Greer) she wanted to impress in middle school. This is the kind of movie where we can clearly see how it would all end right from the beginning but I couldn’t help but enjoy it. It was well-aware of its predictability so it made the journey to the finish line so much fun by throwing us good and bad 80s references. It was as light as cotton candy and as sweet as bubblegum but it had wit, intelligence and charm. It was willing to wear its heart on its sleeves, which sometimes made me cringe because it didn’t know when to stop (for instance, Garner joining her parents in bed), but I thought it worked most of the time. Garner was perfectly casted because she was so good at being wide-eyed and innocent. I thought she was so adorable dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and when everybody joined in, I couldn’t help but laugh and tap my feet. As for the romance, Ruffalo and Garner had perfect chemistry. Watching them together had its syrupy moments but I always felt a certain tension or awkwardness between them because their characters hadn’t spoken to each other in a long time. I think they captured the essence bumping into someone you knew from high school and you had no choice but to make small conversation in order to not seem rude. However, I think the picture could have worked more on the cold-hearted Jenna. The script kept bringing up the fact that everybody was scared of her because she was conniving and had no problem abusing her power. I was curious about her darker side. By exploring that angle, I think the movie could have delved into Greer’s character a lot deeper. After all, there is often pain and jealousy between two friends having to compete against other. Directed by Gary Winick, “13 Going on 30” is a bit too safe in its approach but it’s still a highly enjoyable romantic comedy. It could have easily have overdosed with twists and turns because of the magical element that helped to drive the story forward but it refrained. It wasn’t as good as Penny Marshall’s “Big” but it was able to acquire some magic unique to its own.
Fired Up! (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
I had very low expectations prior to watching to this movie because of all the negative reviews when it came out but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Two football jocks (Nicholas D’Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen) decided to go to cheerleading camp instead of football camp over the summer to pursue beautiful women. But as time went on, the two really got into it and D’Agosto fell for their school’s lead cheerleader (Sarah Roemer), despite her having a boyfriend. While its premise summons movies like “Bring It On,” this was actually more focused on the relationships between people instead of the cheerleading stunts and the hardwork that comes with winning a competition. Though I did expect gay jokes because the main characters were supposed to be manly jocks, there was something gay-friendly about them so the jokes didn’t come out as malicious. In fact, Freedom Jones, the writer, put in little twists here and there when it came to the two leads’ relationship; instead of just being friends whose common bond was to have sex with as many women as they could, they had a sort of genuine bromance going on (reflected in scenes when they were away from camp) so I believed that they could actually be friends. D’Agosto and Olsen’s characters were not your typical dumb jocks. They actually had a brain and a certain sensitivity that (admittedly) made me go “Aww.” I also really liked the many different personalities within and outside the leads’ cheer group. Even though such characters could get a little one-dimensional, they provided enough laughter to make such a thing somewhat forgivable. This flick, undoubtedly, lacks depth but if one is in the mood for something as soft, harmless and fluffy as cotton candy, this one is a pretty good choice. If it had been edgier (such as pushing the quirky characters to “Election”-level caricatures, which would make sense because they were in a competitive environment), I definitely would’ve liked it a bit more but it still left me satisfied.
Bride Wars (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
The trailers were more fun than the actual movie. Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson star as two best friends who, due to a clerical error, were scheduled to have their weddings on the same day. Since the two had their weddings all planned out since childhood, neither lets go of the day and they try to exact revenge on each other instead of dealing with the problem at hand like sane individuals. Having said that, I eventually saw the potential in this film when the two characters started to feel guilt for their actions. I wish the picture had focused more on that instead of the silly (and really ugly) pranks. Yes, the pranks were funny on the surface but there’s an inherent sadness and shame about the whole thing because the audiences are forced to see two best friends destroy each other’s lives. The pranks did not just impact the wedding but their careers and relationship with other people as well. In my opinion, the ending should have been more grim instead of the whole saying-“Sorry”-makes-everything-all-better approach. I doubt that Hathaway would want to be remembered in this wedding-themed movie because, although I love her in pretty much anything (including this one), the script was really weak and the message was way too obvious to fully engage an intelligent audience. While watching “Bride Wars,” I wished I was watching “Rachel Getting Married” instead because at least that one featured a character that was edgy, unlikeable and complex. In “Bride Wars,” everything felt so light and sugar-y to the point where it ended up getting kind of dull. I don’t consider it completely horrible because I like the cast. (Other than the leads, I also enjoyed watching Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston, Bryan Greenberg, Steve Howey and Chris Pratt.) But it’s not something that I’ll recommend to people other than those who are specifically looking for something harmless and forgettable.
The Transporter (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★
I have to give it to Jason Statham for always impressing me in his movies even though the movie itself is pretty average. I guess it’s because I find him so charismatic to the point where I am able to watch him in any movie and maybe even convince myself that I like it even though I really don’t. Thankfully, I don’t need any convincing here. Sure, the action is over-the-top, there isn’t much story, and somehow pretty much all characters know martial arts but I didn’t care about its flaws at the end of the day because I was really entertained (not to mention it was over in just about an hour and twenty-five minutes). Statham is all over the place (in a good way): one minute he’s being shot from under a truck, the next minute he’s diving off a plane. He is so convincing as Frank Martin, the transporter who likes to adhere to his rules of business but one day decides to break the rules because he sees something in Lai (played by Qi Shu). Statham expertly balances quiet intensity and vulnerability and that’s what separates him from other action stars. Matt Schulze (as Wall Street) and Ric Young (as Mr. Kwai) are pretty good (but average) villains because they can look mean and shoot guns. I wish the two would’ve had two separate goals, which could’ve been a better movie because that would mean that the story wouldn’t be as predictable. “The Transporter” is harmless fun with one outstanding scene (the grease fight). It’s definitely more for the boys because it’s hyperkinetic, there’s a lot of bodies getting shot and bones being broken. However, there’s also eye candy for the girls.