Review Podcast Rating Legacy

The Thirteenth Year (1999)

This Disney Channel Original Movie takes a very intriguing premise — boy begins transforming to merman on his thirteenth birthday and tries to hide it from the world; very clearly a metaphor for coming out as gay in 1999 — and makes it so damn boring.

The script lacks a coherent structure; subplots get added and discarded on a whim. It’s as if the writer only decided on a central theme for the film halfway through the first draft and never got around to a second draft.

The movies is led by a charisma vacuum named Chez Starbuck playing a teenager named Cody — the ultimate 1999 name. If Starbuck’s performance was remotely as exciting as his name, I’d probably be bumping this up a rating. Alas, he has no idea what do in front of a camera and was probably cast because he could swim.

The film’s main strength is that it really builds its coming-out-of-the-closet allegory down the stretch. He has a confrontation with his girlfriend that is an astonishingly frank mirror to a teen girl realizing she’s a beard. And the movie’s climax depends on Cody reviving his secret best male friend Jess with a jolt of love, a la Eve kissing Wall-E to bring back his memories.

But it fails to generate even the slightest dramatic tension thanks to weird pacing of exposition revelation and inconsistent characters — e.g. parents whose personalities are different every scene. (At least the dad is played by Uncle Joey from Full House.)

It’s still a Disney Channel movie with a light fantasy element, some time capsule fashion choices, and some corny-ass zingers. If that’s all you need, you can safely proceed — but then why are you even reading reviews? Otherwise, just watch Luca for a variation on this movie’s themes, but actual good filmmaking.

(If you want a full podcast-length review of Thirteenth Year, with a bunch more jokes at the expense of Chez Starbuck, plus a slightly more positive perspective on the movie from Brian focused on the cryptid-hunting angle, check out our coverage on our podcast.)

Is It Good?

Not Good (2/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.

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