The Thirteenth Year is a 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie. It was released May 15, 1999 and is a mix of comedy and fantasy. The film was directed by Duwayne Dunham, who has directed other children and Disney movies, including Little Giants and Halloweentown.
Cody Griffin is an adopted teenager. His biological mother is a mermaid who left him on the Griffins' boat when he was a baby. As she left, she was spotted by Mr. Wheatly, a fisherman who had since became obsessed with finding mermaids. Cody established himself as a quick swimmer in the town he lives in, attracting the attention of a girl named Sam. He was under a lot pressure from a big swim meet coming up and because he's failing biology. He's partnered with Jess Wheatly, the class geek who was a marine biology expert.
After Cody's thirteenth birthday, he began to feel strange. As he woke up in the morning, he turned off his alarm clock and zapped it. Thinking nothing of it, Cody went downstairs and drank some milk, which was when he noticed that something was wrong as his hand was stuck to the milk container. Stranger still, when he starts drinking water, Cody can't seem to stop himself. He went to Jess for help, who agreed to figure out what's going on with him as long as Cody teaches him to swim in return.
Jess ran various tests on Cody and learned that Cody can generate electricity, climb walls, talk to fish, swim extremely fast, and sometimes, when he gets wet, scales appeared on his hands and arms. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that Cody was turning into a merman. Jess researches some of his father's notes and learns that merpeople can live amongst humans until the thirteenth year after their birth, which is when their biology will forcibly try changing them into their aquatic forms. Cody also starts having dreams of swimming underwater without needing to hold his breath and that there is something in a light he must find.
Following his dreams, Cody swims around, enjoying himself and noticing that his scales haven't reappeared. All the while his mermaid mother is watching him from behind a buoy, wondering how he is doing. Despite sensing her presence, Cody brushes off the feeling and heads to shore, where he notices his fins have comes back. Sam arrives, forcing Cody to hide his arms in the sand. She offers to swim with him, but he rebuffs the offer, offending her to the point of walking away.
In spite of the strange reactions of his body to water, as well as the objection of his adoptive parents when they found out, Cody decided to attend the swim meet. He not only won the meet and beaten Sean, but broke the state speed record, sprouting fins in the process in addition to the scales. Sean saw the scales and surmised that Cody was cheating, he followed him to the locker room to confront Cody. Cody avoided him by sticking on to the ceiling, but Sean called out to him, saying that he saw something and will find him out. Cody safely made it out of the stadium and went home with his parents after they found out that he was not in his room, but the scales on his arms weren't going away. Cody tried to calm his parents by claiming that nobody saw the changes, but Jess showed up later and told them that he saw everything and that people are talking about Cody.
Sam showed up at Cody's house and fainted at the sight of his scales. When she came to, she was freaked out. Cody told her that he's still the same guy and to not be afraid. While sworn to secrecy for Cody's safety, Sam was disturbed by the discovery and left.
Cody, still sensing he may find what he dreams are trying to tell him, heads out that early morning to swim around. He dives under the water, discovering it to be just like his dream. He sees the light and swims for it, meeting his mermaid mother; they hold hands, which glow upon touching. However, the happy reunion is cut short by Jess's father, who had caught sight of Cody's mother. Cody heads for shore, confusing the fisherman.
Later that day, Cody found Sam at the beach. She apologizes to him and they have their first kiss. He showed her his regular arms, and told her he wanted to show her something. They went into the water: after a moment, Cody was able to contact his mermaid mother, who Sam found beautiful. Cody suddenly gasped in pain and stumbled back to the shore. While lying on the ground, he told Sam to go get his parents.
Much to his shock, Cody watched as his feet turned into flippers, which means his biology can no longer handle keeping a human form. Thinking that Sam had come back, someone throws a blanket over Cody. Jess came down to where Cody was, but saw that he was gone. He then saw his father's boat and panicked because his father had seen Cody's fins at the swim meet earlier. Mr. Wheatly is planning on using Cody to lure in the mermaid; he bears no ill intent, just wanting to prove to others that he isn't crazy. As Cody is asking for water due to his changing biology, Mr Wheatly pours a couple of buckets worth on him.
Jess boards his father's ship, and Cody asks him for help getting into the water as his change is hastening. Just then, his mermaid mother appeared, he and Jess tried to warn the mermaid, but Jess's father drops a fishing net on her.
Cody asked Jess to help his mother, who then took a knife and jumped into the water to cut the net. He freed the mermaid, but the net got caught on his leg, pulling him under. Jess passed out, but Cody jumped in and brought him to the dock where Jess's father, Cody's parents, and Sam were. Once Jess was pulled out of the water, Mrs. Griffin and Sam did CPR on him, but Jess doesn't respond to it. Cody then decided to use his electricity to shock Jess's heart, successfully reviving him.
Cody's mermaid mother showed up again and Cody told his parents that she wanted him to go with her; she's the only one who can help him with his changes and can probably turn him back into a human. Cody's adoptive mother didn't want him to leave at first, but she came to an agreement with the mermaid who telepathically promised to let Cody back before school starts.
After saying goodbye, Jess told Cody that he and his dad want to know about everything that happens while he's gone and Sam told him not betray their relationship by falling for mergirls. Leaving his clothing behind, Cody went into the water and completed his transformation into a merman with his mermaid mother's help. Done with his change, Cody lovingly hugs his mother, earning a smile in return. He swam back up and leapt through the surface, showing his fully transformed fish tail, and waved good bye to his friends and adoptive parents before swimming off.
- Chez Starbuck - Cody Griffin
- Bridget & Kendra Byrd - Cody as a baby
- Justin Jon Ross - Jess Wheatley
- Courtnee Draper - Sam
- Brent Briscoe - Big John Wheatley
- Tim Redwine - Sean Marshall
- Dave Coulier - Whit Griffin
- Lisa Stahl - Sharon Griffin (as Lisa Stahl Sullivan)
- Brian Haley - Coach
- Kristen Stewart - Extra - In the Fountain Line (uncredited)
- HBHS Marching Band - Background Band
- Stephanie Chantel Durelli - Mermaid
- Regan Burns - Joe
The film was shot in 1998. The ocean scenes were primarily shot in the Newport Beach communities of the Balboa Peninsula and Corona del Mar.
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