The 13th Year is about a boy named Cody who on his 13th birthday starts to realize he just might not be like other teenagers. He is starting to grow scales as well as fins. Could he be a merman?
Growing up, this movie was always talked about with high regard. I remember people using the word classic when referring to original Disney Channel movies. I can honestly say I don’t really understand why. As a kid, I really enjoyed this movie as well. As an adult, I can at least appreciate what they were going for.
Duwayne Dunham comes back to direct this one after directing the very fun Halloweentown for the Disney Channel. He also had some other credible films under his belt. The underrated Little Giants as well as the critically acclaimed hit Homeward Bound. The directing here isn’t really the problem here. Even the story here could be a clever fun ride.
Puberty and growing up can be a very hard time in a child’s life and it can be helpful and important to have stories that teach children that what they are going through is fine and normal. Okay, maybe turning into a mermaid is a little extreme but the message is still the same.
Unfortunately, the 13th Year doesn’t really dive deep into their ideas or do anything interesting with them. Instead, a lot of things just come off as awkward. The movie begins with a mermaid being chased and having to hide her baby in some cargo on a boat. This is a fine intro right up until we see the owners of the boat.
Lisa Stahl Sullivan and Dave Coulier star as the couple who find Cody and raise him. Here Dave is not his comedic self like we are used to seeing on Full House. He is more of the straight man which kind of seems like a mistake. Lisa gets more of the comedic jokes but these so-called jokes are what brings the tone of the movie down.
We have a sweet moment where the mermaid has to give up her son. It is interrupted once Lisa finds the baby and says “Can we keep it?” Like a lost puppy or something. These kinds of awkward moments happen throughout the film and they are really not needed.
Cody grows up to be an amazing swimmer and popular student but once he hits 13 his body starts changing as he looks for answers. He has trouble talking to his girlfriend, who seems to be more into herself than anything. There is an unintentionally funny moment when Cody’s girlfriend gives him a framed picture of her for his birthday.
He can’t speak to his parents because they wouldn’t understand. There is a scene where Cody is analyzing his hands because they are sticking to everything. His parents see him do this and for a good minute do the same thing with their own hands. It’s supposed to be funny. It isn’t. Just weird. His mom also doesn’t believe in going to the doctor because she doesn’t trust them. Cody has actually never been to a doctor.
I’m starting to think that instead of caring for Cody’s well-being, these parents are only looking out for themselves. You know, to hide the fact they possibly kidnapped a child. Now, I know they found Cody on a boat but something tells me that you can’t just keep a baby you found and not really tell anyone.
For a movie with such a fantastical plot, there really is not a lot going on. Anytime we get a quiet conversation or scene involving Cody’s powers or body changing, things are interrupted by a terrible joke or a random awkward moment. I understand at the end of the day this is a children’s film on Disney Channel but we have seen Disney produce movies with good messages that didn’t have to dumb down their audience.
For a movie to work, our main character should be likable or believable right?
Cody is played by Chez Starbuck. That is a name that just screams Hollywood stardom. Unfortunately, Cody is the most unbelievable part of the movie. Everything that comes out of his mouth sounds off. It is a mixture of bad writing and bad acting, I don’t blame the director here but couldn’t we get one or two more takes? It is hard to believe that certain scenes were shot and everyone on set said, “Yes that was good” At the end of the day he is a child actor and I don’t blame him but someone could have said something.
Everyone else is kind of bland and forgettable. The only shining light here really is Justin Jon Ross as Jess. A kid who befriends Cody and helps him through his issues. Jess plays the shy nerdy kid well and carries the movie with the exposition of what could be going on with Cody.
As far as effects go, they are both good and rough. The makeup applied to Cody when he is transforming is decent but towards the end of the movie when Cody fully transforms into a mermaid, it is rough to watch.
The 13th year is not a bad movie at all but it is a bland one. It is not long but it still seems forgettable. There is a good message inside this film but it is surrounded by unnecessary awkwardness. The acting isn’t great and neither is the script. If you are looking for something to watch to pass the time, this is fine. If you are looking for something with substance and to talk about later with friends, there is better fish out there in the sea.