starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, Leslie Mann
written by Jason Filardi
directed by Burr Steers
original release date: 17 April 2009
New Line Cinema, 102 mins.
A Frakkin' Guilty Pleasure
I just witnessed one of the most spectacular lightsaber battles of all time, and it was between Zac Efron and Thomas Lennon in 17 Again. That alone gives it brownie points. In fact, this film has more wet dream geek moments than the entirety of Fanboys. Unfortunately, my uber-macho cool exterior came crumbling down to my friend who accompanied me as I squirmed when some teenagers carelessly messed around with one of those hundred dollar Master Replica lightsabers (specifically some Episode IV Darth Vader and Episode III Obi-Wan Kenobi). Perhaps a little bit in the realm of slightly sad, but I was wanting me a lot of the merchandise Lennon's character owned - wow, they were beautiful.
And now, in an attempt to veer away from some more Star Wars gushing, I'm going to summarize this entire review by saying that 17 Again was a wholeheartedly enjoyable experience that literally had me laughing maybe 10 minutes after a particular joke ended, and my thinking of that joke once again made me erupt in even more laughter, much to the annoyance of my friend. The flick was just great - a perfect family friendly movie that audience members of all ages will dig. And concerning whether or not the world-renown High School Musical star can be a leading man, all I gotta say is that it's pretty sad that he outshines Matthew Perry's performance tremendously, which makes me a little ticked because Chandler was my favorite character in Friends. Fictional character, I know - but I dug the actor.
As a teenager, Mike O'Donnell left his basketball career behind to support his pregnant girlfriend Scarlet. Dreams shattered, potential never realized, for 20 years Mike resents his life and how it turned out. With a soon-to-be finalized divorce from Scar (Mann) and being skipped of a better job at his place of employment, Mike (Perry) gives up, but with the help of a mysterious janitor, Mike is transformed back into his 17-year old persona (Efron), who takes full advantage of this strange series of events. With the help of his Uncle Ned (Lennon), Mike tries to accomplish whatever task he was sent back to accomplish, but also have some fun while he's at it.
17 Again is AWESOME! Far and beyond better than I expected to be (albeit my expectations weren't exactly reaching Dark Knight levels), the film was a laugh-fest from start to finish. Sure, it adds in the dramatic elements as per the necessary screenwriting rules, but it never overshadows the characters or the laughs (here's me looking at Knocked Up).
So, Zac Efron. 17 Again is essentially the movie that would make or break him, since this would be the first time (outside of a musical) that audiences would be able to see what Efron had to offer as an actor. Sadly, I think we'll be waiting awhile for Me and Orson Wells, his first fully dramatic role, but if this is any indication, I think it's proven that Efron has what it takes to be a full-fledged, serious actor. Efron owns in this role. Once you get past his freaky 1980's appearance in the flashbacks and he gets back to looking Efron-y, you can't help but love this guy and everything he tries to do for his teenage kids.
And I want to now admit my undying love for Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, Funny People), who absolutely radiates awesomeness in her performance as the estranged wife of Perry's. She's plays an awesome wife, at least as per the script dictates, and sometimes I wanted to hit Perry in the head for even contemplating ruining the marriage. Speaking of Perry, his performance here neither makes or breaks the flick, as he's hardly in it, and whatever presence he does have isn't nearly powerful enough to remember that he was even in the bloody movie a week later thinking back on it. Thomas Lennon's Uncle Ned, in case I didn't mention this before, is truly the highlight of the movie.
It's great to have a teen comedy that embraces and at times makes fun of the changing trends of the time. For instance, as exampled in the film, the huge difference of the way high school was from a '80's standpoint to today. Sure, there's plenty that stays the same, like cliques and social statuses and the popularity of sports, but it's a whole new different ball-field with the teens and how they dress and speak. 17 Again notes those differences and also remarks on the similarities.
Within the first 10 minutes of the comedy, I had a grin on my face that didn't fade until after the movie ended, and even so, I burst out in laughter thinking about some of the jokes (though, I confess, they were mainly geek-related), and that's a sign of a comedy that was successfully funny and wholly enjoyable. If for no other reason - be it Zac Efron, be it for your teenage daughters, or to locate a laugh-out-loud comedy - 17 Again is fun. And in a period where most movies, even comedies, have a rather bleak nature to them (or are just completely stupid, such as anything with Dane Cook in the mix), this is most welcomed.