17 Again Directed by: Burr Steers Cast: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry Time: 1 hr 30 min Rating: PG 13
Plot: Mike O’Donnell (Adult, Perry) yearns to relive his senior year in order to undo past mistakes. When a janitorial “spirit guide” hears O’Donnell bemoaning his lost youth, he arranges for O’Donnell to fall off a bridge into a magical whirlpool that transforms O’Donnell into a teenager (Efron). Yes, it’s inches from purple cows in tutus, but just go with it, people.
Who’s It For? Hard one…on the surface it’s dressed up for teenaged girls, but there is a surprisingly poignant undercurrent of “What if?” for unhappy adults. Zac Efron is there for the tweeny-boppers, but under all the eye-candy and fluff, the movie has some heart to it.
Expectations: Low-de-low-low. I expected it to be mildly cute.
Actors: Zac Efron as Mike O’Donnell (teenager): I love Zac Efron. He’s beautiful and goofy and talented and a bit on the fearless side of the spectrum. He sings and dances and puts himself in silly situations for a laugh. If he doesn’t go and blow it by being a moronic, egocentric, self-entitled, Grade A a-hole, the road to his future is paved with golf-ball sized diamonds. Score: 8
Thomas Lennon as Ned Gold: You probably know Lennon as Lieutenant Dangle from Reno 911!; if you don’t know Lennon, your life is incomplete. He is like healthy cheesecake in 17 Again--just way too good to be true. In all defiance of all reason, I’m going to give him a perfect score—usually reserved for saints, Nobel Prize winners, and Kevin Spacey circa late 90s. Lennon is purely delicious and the scenes between he and Melora Hardin (Jan from The Office) are nerderific Nirvana. Score: 10
Matthew Perry as Mike O’Donnell (adult): Perry is really on the periphery here, since it’s obviously pure Efron territory. He doesn’t get to do any of the fun stuff, because he’s the discontented, whiny adult, and no one likes that guy. All the same, he does the best he can with his ten minutes of screen time, and you actually do like the guy—that’s huge. Score: 7
Talking: The dialogue is consistently funny in this movie. The writing is strong and the characters are likeable. The chemistry is dead on between everyone, which makes the banter that much more enjoyable. Trust me, by the time they bust out hardcore ancient Elvish, you’ll be more than sold on this movie. Score: 9
Sights: There’s the occasional editing mistake and it’s distracting. It isn’t appalling, but sometimes it feels just…sloppy. Score: 6
Sounds: The soundtrack does its job without reaching any sort of phenomenal new level of creativity. But, then again, what makes this movie so fun is the writing. Score: 6
Best Scene: I’m predisposed to Star Wars geeks and anyone who dressed up for the Lord of the Rings premiere, so (in my opinion) the best scenes involved the perfectly wonderful Thomas Lennon as the uber-nerd.
Ending: As expected a bit of a yawner. It’s so formulaic that it’s difficult to avoid, but it did what it was supposed to do.
Questions: No offense Matthew, but if you had the option to be Matthew Perry or Zac Efron, isn’t the choice a foregone conclusion?
Rewatchability: I could happily sit through this movie one more time.
OVERALL A friend of mine pointed out that every few years, Hollywood joins forces with the current heartthrob/teen queen and puts out another switching bodies/switching identities movie. Apparently, it’s the first time he’s noticed that Hollywood recycles the crap out of everything, including recycled crap. Making money doesn’t necessarily mean originality or art; in fact, a lot of times, it seems almost mutually exclusive.
And this movie is going to make a modest sum, because it’s a heartthrob in a popular formula. What sets 17 Again apart from the plethora of other switcharooni comedies, is that it has its own unexpected edge. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it an “unflinching look at the choices we make and the lives we live,” but as far as a comedic take on adult discontent, it doesn’t do a bad job. It’s funny and charming and totally non-threatening, but it does come to a healthy conclusion about obsessing over the past. As trite as it is, the more you dwell on the past, the more you waste your present and future. Cheers to just accepting things the way they are.
Final Score: 8/10