17 Again: Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Questionable Weekend Viewing - 17 Again

By Robert Mann.

After being made into a star by the High School Musical films Zac Efron has made a very wise career move by opting to turn his back on Disney in favour of other screen roles. His first non-Disney role is in 17 Again, a comedy in a similar vein to films such as 13 Going On 30 and Big, albeit in reverse. With its 12A rating and thematical elements it certainly is a move away from Disney for Efron but is it going to change audience perceptions of him? After all, most know him only from High School Musical he plays Troy, a hotshot high school basketball player who is far more than he seems. In 17 Again, on the other hand, he plays a hotshot basketball players who is far more than he seems. Okay, maybe he hasn’t quite shaken off the image of being Troy from High School Musical but it’s a move away from typical Disney roles at least.

Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) is a 37 year old who is extremely unhappy with his life. When he was young he had it all – a beautiful girlfriend and a promising future as a basketball player – but now due to his life choices he is in the middle of a divorce from the love of his life Scarlett (Leslie Mann), he hardly knows anything about his kids Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight) and after being passed up for promotion at the place where he has worked for 16 years he is now out of a job. His only friend in the world is the rich sci-fi and fantasy obsessed computer geek Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon) who is letting him stay at his house. Mike’s life is going nowhere until a freak act of fate transforms him into a 17 year old once again, giving him the chance to relive his life the way he always wanted. Deciding to go back to high school, the now young Mike (Zac Efron) with Ned pretending to be his father, he initially views it as an opportunity to become a star basketball player but when he gets to know his kids in ways he never knew them before. He soon realises that maybe he was given the opportunity to help his kids and sets about trying to make their lives better by getting Alex onto the basketball team and trying to convince Maggie to leave her bully boyfriend. With his impending divorce from his wife, however, he soon realises that what he really wants from life may be what he had all along and sets about trying to get it back.

Anyone familiar with other similar comedies will have a very good idea of what to expect from 17 Again. There is nothing original or innovative about this film whatsoever, but an unoriginal film doesn’t necessarily make for a poor viewing experience. With all the bad things happening in the world right now this is probably a just about perfect film for anyone who needs cheering up, as while the storyline is predictable and it is easy to see what is going to happen, there is a generally good vibe surrounding it, and the trademark happy ending will ensure that you leave the cinema with a warm feeling inside. The film is also pretty funny although not necessarily for the reasons you might expect. Matthew Perry, whose role is pretty small here, is not what you would expect, playing it completely straight rather than being laugh-out-loud funny. While he has successfully gotten rid of any typecasting remaining from his Friends days this isn’t necessarily a good thing for the audience as this critic found himself missing Perry’s Chandler Bing days when the simple delivery of a line was enough to make you laugh. Here, Perry gets no comedy moments at all.

Zac Efron gets considerably more comic scenes than Perry but he too doesn’t get much chance to shine in the comedy department thanks to one of his co-stars. The film’s funniest scenes all come courtesy of the hilarious Thomas Lennon whose performance is the real highlight that makes an otherwise average film stand out. His character virtually steals every scene he’s in and, at times you may find yourself wondering why the need for Efron at all. His character is even funnier for the reason that such a person probably does exist in real life and Lennon is pretty convincing in the role. The film also features strong performances from Michelle Trachtenberg and Leslie Mann although neither really get to participate in the film’s comedic content. While often being outshone by co-star Lennon, Efron is very good in his role, even if it is to all intensive purposes a variation of Troy from High School Musical. Overall, 17 Again doesn’t quite match the charm and warmth of other similarly themed movies but if you are looking for a fun feel-good film to help you forget about your worries this is just the film for you.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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