The Thirteenth Year
The Thirteenth Year is a 1999 comedy-drama Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) directed by Duwayne Dunham and starring Chez Starbuck and Courtnee Draper. It premiered on Disney Channel on May 15, 1999.
|The Thirteenth Year|
|Written by||Jenny Arata|
Robert L. Baird
|Directed by||Duwayne Dunham|
|Theme music composer||Phil Marshall|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||Heidi Wall|
|Running time||95 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Mike Jacobs, Jr. Productions|
Dream City Films
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television|
|Original network||Disney Channel|
|Original release||May 15, 1999|
Cody Griffin is an adopted teenager; his birth mother is a mermaid who left him on the Griffins' boat when he was a baby to avoid being captured. As she left, she was spotted by Mr. Wheatly, a fisherman who became obsessed with finding mermaids. Years later, Cody establishes himself as a quick swimmer on his school's swim team, and he has a girlfriend named Sam. He is under a lot of pressure from a big swim meet coming up and because he is failing biology, he is partnered with Jess Wheatly, the class geek who is a marine biology expert.
After Cody's 13th birthday, he begins to feel strange. As he wakes up in the morning, he turns off his alarm clock and zaps it. Ignoring it, Cody drinks from a milk container, which he notices is stuck to his hand; he later also drinks large amounts of water. He goes to Jess for help, who agrees to figure out what is going on with him as long as Cody teaches him to swim in return. Jess runs various tests, learning Cody can generate electricity, climb walls, talk to fish, swim extremely fast, and when sometimes wet, scales appear on his hands and arms. Jess concludes that Cody is turning into a merman.
Despite all the odd things happening to him, as well as the objection of his adoptive parents when they find out, Cody decides to attend the swim meet. He not only wins the meet and beats his teammate Sean, but breaks the state speed record, with his scales appearing. Sean sees the scales and surmises Cody cheated, following him into the locker room. Cody avoids him by sticking to the ceiling, but Sean is determined to find out how Cody cheated. Cody safely makes it out of the school and goes home with his parents after they find out he was not in his room; however, the scales are lasting longer now.
Cody tries calming his parents by claiming nobody saw his scales, but Jess shows up and tells them he saw everything and that people are talking about Cody. Sam arrives and faints at the sight of Cody's scales. When she awakens, she is freaked out. Cody tells her he is still the same guy and to not be afraid. While sworn to secrecy for Cody's safety, Sam is disturbed by the discovery and leaves. The next morning Cody takes a swim, and meets his mermaid mother; however, Jess's father, who is the obsessed fisherman, spots them and ends the reunion.
Later that day, Cody meets Sam at the beach. She apologizes and they share a kiss. Cody then walks into the water with her, saying there's something he wants to show her. Cody's mother appears, with Sam complimenting her beauty; however, Cody suddenly gasps in pain and stumbles back to the shore. Writhing on the ground, he tells Sam to get his parents. After she leaves, Cody's feet turn into flippers. Thinking Sam came back, Cody is surprised when someone throws a blanket over him.
Jess comes down to where Cody is, but sees he is gone. He then sees his father's boat and panics because his father had seen Cody's fins at the swim meet earlier. Jess's father is planning on using Cody to lure in his mother to prove he is not crazy for believing in mermaids. Jess comes on board the boat, and Cody asks him for help. Despite trying to warn the mermaid away, Cody and Jess are unable to stop a fishing net from trapping her. Cody asks Jess to help his mother, so he takes a knife and jumps into the water to cut the net. He frees the mermaid, but his leg gets caught in the net, pulling him under. Jess passes out, but Cody jumps in and brings him to the dock where Jess's father, Cody's parents, and Sam are. Sam performs CPR, but is unsuccessful. Cody decides to zap Jess's heart, which successfully makes Jess come to.
Cody's mermaid mother shows up again. She discovers her son is still alive and watches him and his family from afar. Cody explains she wants him to go with her because she is the only one who can help him with his changes. Cody's adoptive mother does not want him to leave, but the mermaid telepathically promises to send Cody back before school starts. After goodbyes, Jess asks Cody to tell him and his dad about the aquatic life he sees, and Sam makes Cody promise not to betray her by falling for mergirls. After saying goodbye, Cody and his mother swim off into a life below the surface.
The Thirteenth Year was the film debut of lead actor Chez Starbuck, who had previously only acted in a few commercials, and had served as an anchor of a local children's news program for KLAS-TV in his hometown of Las Vegas. The film was shot over a six-week period in southern California. Starbuck was advised by an acting coach for each day of filming. The ocean scenes were primarily shot in the Newport Beach communities of the Balboa Peninsula and Corona del Mar. Cody's house was filmed at Point Fermin Light in San Pedro, California.
The Thirteenth Year premiered on Disney Channel on May 15, 1999. It was Disney Channel's second highest-rated film up to that point. A promotional tour for the film took place across a dozen cities during summer 1999. The film was released on VHS on January 23, 2001.
The Post-Standard stated that while the film was not as entertaining as the 1984 mermaid film Splash, it "has a good pace and a few laughs," although it was noted that Starbuck's "stiff" performance "dampens some of the movie's charm." In June 2011, Stephan Lee of Entertainment Weekly called the film a "heartwarming and somewhat creepy tale of growing up, leaving the nest, and of course, being yourself". In 2012, Complex ranked the film at number 17 on the magazine's list of the 25 best Disney Channel Original Movies. In May 2016, Aubrey Page of Collider ranked each DCOM released up to that point, placing The Thirteenth Year at number 16 and calling it an "indisputable DCOM classic". That month, Entertainment Weekly ranked it at number 7 on a list of the top 30 DCOMs.
- Ferguson, Lisa (November 2, 1999). "Teenager from Green Valley is getting noticed in Hollywood". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- King, Susan (May 13, 1999). "From Rocky Marciano to Joan of Arc: That's Entertainment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- Davis, Cynthia (January 18, 2001). "Video Charts". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- "The Thirteenth Year (VHS)". Amazon. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- "TV best bet". The Post-Standard. May 14, 1999. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- Lee, Stephan (June 7, 2011). "Disney Channel Original Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- Aquino, Tara; Scarano, Ross (December 6, 2012). "The 25 Best Disney Channel Original Movies". Complex. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012.
- Page, Aubrey (May 26, 2016). "Every Disney Channel Original Movie, Ranked". Collider. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016.
- Jonathon, Dornbush (May 27, 2016). "30 Disney Channel Original Movies, Ranked". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 3, 2018.