Wednesday, April 22, 2009

17 Again (2009)

Picture three very stressed-out ladies at the end of a very long day. What they need is something light-hearted, something humorous, something distracting.....

I've tried 3 times to write this review of 17 Again, but I just couldn't seem to move beyond "It's funny! We laughed and laughed. And, by the way, don't take your preteen to see this even if she does have a crush on Zac Efron."

But tonight I went again with two other friends and I think one more attempt at this review should bear fruit. There aren't too many movies that I pay full price to see more than once. (Lord of the Rings comes to mind! lol)

Maybe you've heard that the movie is just a rehash of a familiar plot - What would happen if you could go back to your youth and try it again? Movies along these lines are common - Freaky Friday, Big, Peggy Sue Got Married, even Back to the Future and It's a Wonderful Life.

Let's see. Mike O'Donnell had a promising high school basketball career, but tossed away his chance at a scholarship to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Twenty years later, he's alienated both his wife and his two kids. The last straw comes when he gets fired from his job instead of receiving an expected promotion. Is it any wonder he would prefer to return to 1989? Then, through some unexplained magic, he does return, not to 1989, but to his 17-year-old body.

Yep, seems pretty familiar stuff. So what does 17 Again have to add to this genre which contains some clearly superior films?


It's not a surprising story. One of my movie-going friends guessed every plot point before it happened. Did that make her enjoy the film any less? From her laughs and comments afterward, I would venture to say her pleasure in the film remained intact. Are we only amused by stories that have never been told? Aren't many (if not all) stories a reprise of some previously-described tale? So, even if a familiar plot is predictable, our satisfaction in the story is not necessarily lessened.

Some of the biggest laughs came from the subplot involving Ned, an endearingly geeky bachelor played with wide-eyed charm by Thomas Lennon. I won't spoil these giggles, except to say that if you have any familiarity with Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons or any other Sci-fi or fantasy world, you will very likely adore Ned. As a Lord of the Rings fan and the mother of two Star Wars fans, I could certainly relate.

However, I found the greatest surprise of the movie to be the star, Zac Efron, who plays the young incarnation of the age-shifting Mike O'Donnell. Yes, he of High School Musical fame. I have never been counted a fan of the HSM franchise (although that may change!). Shall we say that my expectations were low? However, Efron seems to hit just the right balance between earnestness and satire. Charisma he has in abundance and it shines through, making this familiar plot something sparkling. The courtroom scene is a case in point.

Other items of note:
Michelle Trachtenburg and Sterling Knight both are enjoyable in the roles of Mike's two teenage children. I particularly liked Knight's awkwardness. Matthew Perry, as the adult Mike O'Donnell, gets almost no screen time. His name probably anchors the movie for most people my age, though, so I can understand the choice. Leslie Mann capably plays Scarlett, Mike's wife, although I didn't see much chemistry between her and either Efron or Perry.

This is not a movie for the preteen High School Musical fans. Some uncomfortable situations result from young Mike trying to repair his relationship with his daughter and wife who don't realize his identity. Use your imagination. A sex-ed class presents several topics that my own preteens would not understand, although the scene ends up favorably disposed toward abstinence. Some language and teen partying also contribute to the PG-13 rating.

And nope, the hairstyles are NOT from 1989. Sorry, no. Not even close. (Not referring to the coifs in these pictures, though.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, laughing and giggling through it twice, even after paying through the nose for full price tickets. I intend to buy it when it is released on DVD. And even more telling, I've started watching the High School Musical films! If you are in need of some stress relief, this may be your prescription.


Screenit Review
Plugged In Review


Denise said...

Sounds like a really fun movie! Thanks for the review. :)

Anonymous said...

Good Review. I know who Zac reminds me of- Michael J Fox. That's why I have a soft spot for him!

Anonymous said...

Ummmm.... I think that the LIST needs updated!