Double Feature

September 2015 - Ah, September, the month traditionally associated with the start of the new school year. In reality, that month is often August, but I need a column for September, so work with me.

Last year around this time, I settled in to watch At Middleton, in which Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga get an unexpected college experience while their respective children tour the campus. The cast of this R-rated film from 2013 includes Tom Skerritt, Peter Riegert, Garcia's daughter, Daniella, and Farmiga's sister, Taissa.

Garcia plays George Hartman, a married heart surgeon who's bringing his ambivalent son, Conrad, to look at Middleton College. Farmiga is Edith Martin, a married seller of children's furniture. Her daughter, Audrey (Taissa Farmiga), is intent on attending the school. They arrive at the same time, leading George and Edith to squabble over a parking spot. Soon enough, that squabbling leads to something more as George and Edith ditch their kids and wander around campus on their own.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. I really like Vera Farmiga as an actress, and I find her delightful in this role. She and Garcia sell their characters and bring a dose of truth to what otherwise would have been a totally unbelievable plot. Their performances make the movie worth watching.

The middle-school years provide the backdrop for 13 Going on 30, a PG-13 romcom from 2004. The message is: Be careful what you wish for because that wish just might come true. Jennifer Garner finds out the hard way in this movie that tries to be like Big, but doesn't quite succeed. Mark Ruffalo and Judy Greer co-star.

Garner plays Jenna Rink, a girl growing up in the 1980s. Jenna's smart and a bit of a dork. Her best friend is her neighbor, Matt (Ruffalo), who's also a bit of a dork. He can't understand why Jenna wants nothing more than to be one of the Six Chicks, the coolest clique in school.

On Jenna's 13th birthday, Matt arrives early to give Jenna her gift – a dollhouse he made himself. Jenna likes it but quickly stashes it in the closet once the Six Chicks and the jocks arrive for her party. It doesn't take long for Jenna to find herself in the closet wishing with all her might that she were 30 years old. Suddenly, with help from a little pixie dust, she is!

Jenna finds her 13-year-old self in a 30-year-old body, living in 2004 Manhattan and working at Poise, her favorite style magazine. She also finds that older Jenna is not a very nice person and is not liked very much. So, with some help from Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar and her old friend, Matt, Jenna sets out to change all that.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. The movie has a lot of energy and the actors are easy to watch, but it just doesn't have the same depth as Big. Still, it's not an unpleasant way to pass the time on a lazy Sunday afternoon, especially if your favorite football team isn't playing until later.