17 Again (2009)
Attack of the Zac as Perry goes Back
It's a classic transformation story. Are you now or have you ever been a Norse God, Vampire, or Time Traveling Cyborg? - Ned Freedman
To put it simply "17 Again" is just another take on your traditional body swap movie and in many ways is similar to "13 Going on 30" although working in reverse with an adult become a 17 year old again. As such we get plenty of formulaic familiar scenes which tend to fill these types of movies as confusion abounds when Mike miraculously goes from being a thirty something to a teen, alongside the attempts to keep up the pretence of being someone different. But then credit where it is due and "17 Again" doesn't over use these familiar scenes but gets on to what is the main storyline of Mike being able to bond with his children, helping them with their teen crises and also trying to convince his wife not to divorce the older version of himself. Because of this "17 Again" is thankfully not just a rehash of other similar movies and works this second chance style element to full effect.
At 17 Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron - Hairspray) had it all, he was cool, a promising basketball player and a wonderful girlfriend, Scarlett (Allison Miller). Except on the night of a big basketball game Scarlett tells him that she is pregnant and so Mike walks away from the game, his chance of a scholarship and proposes. 20 years later and a thirty something Mike (Matthew Perry - The Ron Clark Story) is fed up of his life, his children don't talk to him and his childhood sweetheart Scarlett (Leslie Mann - Drillbit Taylor) wants a divorce as all he can think about is wishing he was 17 again. But Mike miraculously gets his wish and suddenly becomes 17 again, back at Hayden High and in school with his teenage kids giving him a chance to make amends for all his adult mistakes.
Of course any movie which revolves around the body swap scenario will usually be playing it for laughs and "17 Again" is no different. There are a whole plethora of jokes going on as the teen version of Mike tries to help his son to get the girl and also get on the basketball team, whilst he has to fight of the advances of his own daughter after her boyfriend dumps her for not putting out. Add to this the humour of him being 17 and looking exactly like he did when he first met his wife and as such she is attracted to him again. It all works and whilst much of it is predictably obvious it raises a few smiles and the occasional laugh.
But in many ways all of these set pieces and jokes feel to safe and whilst "17 Again" is clearly aimed at being a family friendly movie there is much of it which ends up feeling remarkably lame and overly child like. It's not that it's not enjoyable just something is missing, a bit of edgy comedy to liven it up.
What is very evident is that "17 Again" is a movie which trades strongly on Zac Efron's likeability factor, his good looks and teen idol status. As such it is perfect casting with Efron looking good, acting cool and have a sense of style and charm which makes him stand out from the rest of teens. In many ways and I am loathed to say it but it is a very enjoyable performance which actually demonstrates that Efron is capable of more than just throw away teen movies which trade purely on his looks.
Aside from Efron, well Matthew Perry is as enjoyable as ever in the few scenes he gets as the older, put upon version of Mike, although sadly he doesn't get anywhere near enough screen time for my liking. And Leslie Mann is a joy to watch as the confused wife, Scarlett, who becomes strangely attracted to the young Mike. Plus Thomas Lennon is quirky enough as Mike's best friend Ned Gold. These are good performances to be honest, although nothing really stands out.
What this all boils down to is that "17 Again" is what it is, an enjoyable take on the body swap movie which doesn't just revolve around the confusion of suddenly being young again but focuses on a storyline of making amends for your mistakes and getting second chances. It's a movie which trades on Zac Efron's liability and as such is surprisingly entertaining. "17 Again" is not great just average but will make you laugh just enough whilst still delivering a quasi sentimental storyline.
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