Saturday, 19 September 2020
17 Again
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 00:00
17againposterWe’ve seen this formula before… time-travelling, body-swapping, the chance to recapture glory days. Jamie Lee Curtis successfully swapped skins with Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday; Adam Sandler made me wish I could fast-forward two hours in Click. 17 Again gives Matthew Perry the chance to recapture his youth – or at least to capture the youth of hot commodity Zac Efron. I’m sure all of us wish we could bottle that and sell it to the highest bidder!

Once on the path to a basketball scholarship, Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) gave up his dreams in favor marrying his high-school sweetheart and raising an unexpected baby. Now, years later, let’s just say Mike is not making lemon-aid with those lemons. His teenaged kids find him an annoyance and his wife has had enough of the lackluster attitude and wants a divorce. Mike just wishes he had it all to do over again.

Of course he gets his wish (if he didn’t there wouldn’t be a movie) and miraculously finds himself in the body of his former youth. Matt Perry – meet the new, six-pack toting, tousled hair tossing, GQ cover boy version of you! Of course he is psyched to relive his glory days and thinks life couldn’t get much better. But when he enrolls in the same high school his kids attend, he starts to wonder if there is some method to the madness. His kids need help, and their father hasn’t been around to provide much of it. But now the new and improved “Mark” is.

17againpic1As I mentioned, this movie is definitely formula, but solid directing and a talented lead make it worthwhile despite an unoriginal script. Burr Steeves directed a decent little movie called Igby Goes Down starring Kieran Culkin a few years back and he adds interest to some of the material here. There were a couple of times that I actually remarked on a camera angle or an effect that I thought was nice.

The real star of the show is Zac Efron. Hot off the popularity of High School Musical, this guy really is the whole package; at least when it comes to sweet, simple family films. At the risk of sounding like one of the many adoring teenage girls who swear they will marry him one day… Efron is almost too pretty for the camera; a good singer; talented dancer and obviously charismatic enough to carry a feature film. At twenty-two it seems the world is his playground. What I like about his performance in 17 Again is that he keeps every scene fresh and puts a lot of energy into each moment. It remains to be seen if he has the chops to play anything other than popular teenaged basketball players, but hopefully we’ll see him get the chance.

17againpic2Leslie Mann (Knocked Up) and newcomer Sterling Knight as Mike’s wife and son both give performances that are better than the written material. The best moments are the odd attraction between Mann and Efron. Michelle Trachtenberg (best known as Buffy’s kid sister) is just plain awful. There are many an awkward scene between Maggie and her newly youthful father that might make you want to throw up a little bit. Thomas Lennon is comic relief as the nerdy best friend who pretends to be Mike’s father. He’s got some good moments. I like Matthew Perry, but he was miscast and really his role amounts to little more than bookends anyway.

Overall this is an OK little movie that is going to make a whole lot of teenage girls really happy. Not the most original thing ever, but if you want to see it you already know what you’re in for.