17 Again

Posted on August 11, 2009 at 8:00 am

There’s nothing new in the storyline, which mixes a little “Freaky Friday” with a bit of “Back to the Future,” but it is a lot of fun to watch Zac Efron take center stage with plenty of star power in his first real leading role.

Efron plays Mike, a high school basketball star whose future plans are derailed when his girlfriend becomes pregnant. When he gets to middle age (played by Matthew Perry) he is losing his job, separated from his wife, and estranged from his teenage children. He is also losing his sense of who he was and estranged from his sense of who he wants to be. And he is living with his only friend, the nerdy, inappropriate, but devoted, wealthy, and very funny Ned (Thomas Lennon of “Reno 911”).

A bit of hocus-pocus from a kindly old janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) and suddenly Mike is, well, the title says it all. It is a bit disconcerting to find himself dealing with hormones but he relishes the extra energy and the ability to eat endless amounts of junk food. At first he thinks the transformation is going to give him a chance to have a different outcome for himself, maybe get that basketball scholarship this time, but then he realizes the purpose of the transformation is to give him a second chance with his family. Mike is soon re-enrolled in high school (as “Mark”), where he gets a very different perspective on his son (Sterling Knight) and daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg). He begins to see his wife (Leslie Mann) differently, too. Only she thinks he is her son’s high school friend and is a little freaked out by the way he seems so familiar — in both senses of the term.

Various complications and mix-ups ensue, especially when Ned falls for the high school principal (“The Office’s” Melora Hardin). But other than overdoing some Oedipal situations and a few crude jokes, the movie veers away from the most obvious avenues for humor. There’s very little about changes in culture and it’s fairly light on slapstick and humiliation. Instead, it relies primarily on charm and unabashed sweetness that perfectly suits Efron’s easy grace. In an early scene, he jumps from the basketball game into a cheerleader routine, filled with the pleasure of joining in, and having so much fun it is impossible not to smile.

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Comedy Fantasy

13 Replies to “17 Again”

  1. Back to the Future seems more like Peggy Sue Got Married– that is, a second chance through time travel (similar to A Christmas Carol)– rather than Big and 17 Again, which seem to be about a second chance through body swapping. The common theme in all of them seems to be, “if you only knew then what you know now (as a result of a little magic) you’d be living your life differently. A third related category might include movies like Our Town or It’s A Wonderful Life, where you acquire that little burst of self-awareness with the help of the angels.
    Shouldn’t we give screenwriters and poets a much needed rest by accepting that we should all be focusing on the important things rather than wasting our lives on petty squabbles and minutiae? That way screenwriters could devote more time to good movies like Weekend at Bernie’s, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine– especially the part where Bernie is dangling from the helicopter and klonks his head on a series of life buoys.

  2. … In fact, I would like to see a list of movies where the plot is advanced by a good hit on the head instead of all these out-of-body experiences. Not just a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or the Wizard of Oz, but the aforementioned Weekend at Bernie’s or that marvelous scene in Throw Momma from the Train where Danny DeVito pastes Billy crystal with a frying pan, or Saving Silverman where the jilted bride gets mad and hits that guy in the head with a chair. There must be others out there who feel the way I do. Am I right?

  3. this movie is funny, but it is not appropriate for middle school children. The PG-13 rating should be R. Way too much is shown, discussed and laughed about to expose younger children to. Zac Efron should have make a more family movie, because he is why we went to see the movie

  4. Thanks, PJHawk, this is very helpful. As you can see, I recommended it for high school age and up and was very clear in my review about the inappropriate material. I am sorry to say that this is fairly mild for what gets a PG-13 these days. It is fair to assume that anything with a PG-13 rating will be inappropriate for younger children.

  5. Thank you for the review — we were considering taking our 13-year olds to see this; now i think we may wait a few years to let them see it. You are correct, Nell about what gets a pg-13 rating these days. we made a huge mistake and took our kids to see Knowing without seeing your review first. Hey, it was PG-13 right? we had to leave about 40 minutes into it. We really appreciate your recommendations as to age suitability.

  6. Nell,
    Really appreciate your review. My 12 year old (and 10 year olds!) really wanted to see this movie. It has been advertized on shows they watch. I even wanted see it based on the commercials. However, now that I know about the adult content I will be watching this one on my own.

  7. This movie was excellent! Some parents are calling it bad because of a few bad things, but try walking through a high school. I hear more bad things in a 5 minute break walking through the hall then I did in this movie. So if you are trying to protect your child’s ears- its too late. It also shows what the consequences are for making big mistakes. It shows kids not to do that, it doesn’t encourage it! So before trying to keep your children safe from hearing whats in this movie, think of what actual teenagers are saying in the school around them. I think this was a really funny movie, not some “have sex, its OK” movie that a lot of people think it is!

  8. Britt33 I’m seeing parents state that it might be too mature for the Preteen set not high school age, I’m sure it’s actually very tame for high school age kids and frankly not sure many high school age kids are going to be very interested in this film, but I do agree we won’t be taking our 10 year old to see this.

  9. My 7-year-old desperately wants to see this movie since ALL of her friends her age (7!) have seen it. What are these parents thinking? PG-13 means OK for 13 and older, not for 7-year-olds! I told her I’d watch it first to see if I’ll let her see it, but I don’t have any illusions that it’s appropriate for someone her age.

  10. Thanks, Mary. I love to hear from parents who are willing to protect their children, no matter what “everyone else does.” I am to sorry to tell you that from now on it will get even tougher as your daughter’s friends will be seeing increasingly inappropriate films and you will be increasingly shocked. And in about four years she will really start arguing with you about it. But I always tell parents that the people I talk to in their 20’s always say they wish their parents had been more protective, not less, so stick to it. This movie is not at all appropriate for a 7 year old. And many PG-13s are not appropriate for 13 year olds. Thanks again and please write any time you have questions or comments. All best to you and your daughter — she is lucky to have you.

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