Jul 7, 2024

Your Wish Is Granted

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

They Grow Up So FastBig / 13 Going On 30
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Saturday night at the drive-in was dedicated to two movies about thirteen year old children who make a wish that results in them living in their adult bodies and in an adult world.  While these two movies share a very specific plot device, the characters, the setting, and the execution of that plot device make these films two distinct experiences that are both fun to watch.  It also makes them an excellent pairing for a double feature.

I was kind of surprised that my wife stayed home for this one since she's a huge fan of 80's movies, but I get it.  She needs to have some quiet time away from people to keep in a good frame of mind.  I've become a bit of a celluloid junkie, so my quiet time for the past few years has been the winter after the baseball and drive-in seasons have come to an end, and I go into hibernation like a bear until the following spring.

Despite flying solo to the lot, I wasn't alone.  This place has kind of become like Cheers to me... a place where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came.  I had my chair set up in the lawn in the shade of the screen prior to the show when our friends Tom, Jen, and Jaxon came by to ask if they could join me.  Abso-freakin-loutely!  They're three of the coolest folks I've ever been lucky enough to become friends with, and I'm always happy as hell to hang out with them.

Big is a movie that probably couldn't be made today, at least not in the same way.  It's a movie riddled with massive plot holes and a relationship that would be picked apart by the modern day pearl clutchers for being "problematic", but Tom Hanks delivers a performance that is so damned charming that it succeeds in spite of this.  The story is centered around a young boy named Josh who is embarrassed in front of the girl that he likes when he is too short to go on a carnival ride with her.  He wanders around for a bit until discovering a Zoltar fortune telling machine.  He puts in a quarter and wishes to be big, and then wakes up in his bedroom the next morning as a thirty year old man.

It's the kind of movie that you really have to approach as a modern day fairy tale to get the most out of it.  If you can switch off the critical part of your brain for an hour and forty-four minutes and just let the story be what the story is while laughing off the obvious flaws in the plot, you're going to have a good time.  There will be plenty of time after the credits have rolled to marvel at the fact that there was apparently no attempt to find a missing 13 year old boy, while the kid next door takes routine unsupervised trips to New York City to spend time with an adult male whose social security number came from a locker combination.

This movie premiered on June 3rd, 1988 and it became one of those movies that practically kid I went to school with had seen.  I didn't get to see it in theaters, but I know that I watched either as a weekend VHS rental, or during one of the pay channel free weekends, or over a friend's house.  I can't remember exactly how I first saw it, but I do know that I haven't watched it from start to finish since I was younger than the Josh Baskin character is in the movie.  I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to see it on 35mm on the big screen at the Mahoning.

Geoffrey brought a couple of classic cartoons on 35mm that were screened during intermission.  The first was a 1970 Woody Woodpecker short called All Hams On Deck, in which a pirate named Captain Blah chases after the woodpecker when the bird sees where he has buried his gold.  This was followed by a 1948 Tom & Jerry cartoon called The Truce Hurts, in which Tom, Jerry, and Butch (the dog) agree to be friends.  The truce holds up for a little while until a disagreement over how to share a big juicy steak puts an end to the peace.  Seeing these classic cartoons on the big screen at the Mahoning is always a treat.  This is especially true when they match the tone of the movies that they are appearing with, which these two cartoons most certainly did.

Like Big, 13 Going On 30 begins with a child living in the late 1980's who makes a wish that results in them waking up in their adult body.  However, in this case, the girl who makes the wish (Jenna Rink, played brilliantly by Christa B. Allen and Jennifer Garner) does not wake up as an adult in the same year in which she makes the wish.  She instead wakes up as herself in 2004 as a thirty year old woman with no memory of what happened in the years between her 13th birthday and the moment that she realizes that her wish has come true.

The focus of the movie is not just Jenna, as a 13 year old, trying to navigate the world as an adult, but doing so in a future that she doesn't understand, and discovering that the adult her is not a person who she's proud of or wants to become.  Another way this movie distinguishes itself from Big is the fact that unlike Josh Baskin, whose naiveté leads him into a relationship with a woman, Jenna Rink is disgusted by the attention shown to her by men.

I saw this movie when it first came out in 2004, but I can't remember if I saw it in a theater or if it was a DVD rental from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.  I remember thinking that it was alright, but I saw it with my girlfriend at the time who I was in a relationship with that continued long after its shelf life had expired.  I don't think either of us even really liked being around each other after the first few months, so most of the things that I experienced with her in the early 2000's have taken on a slightly negative tone in my memory.  I haven't seen the movie since that first time and really never had any desire to go back to it, but as the credits rolled on the big screen at the Mahoning, I was glad that I had the opportunity to give it a second chance.  13 Going On 30 is a fun 2000's comedy flick with a killer soundtrack and heartwarming performances.  It's never going to find its way to one of my favorites list, but it's an enjoyable film that's absolutely worth watching for those of us who aren't trapped by our own cynicism, and it was especially enjoyable to watch it along with Big with friends at the drive-in.