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I don’t want to say it, I don’t want to say it, I don’t want to say it… oh shoot! I’m restraining myself, but I have admit it. I actually liked this film. I can’t figure out what it is about Zac Efron that makes me want to not like him however I must say I am tolerant of him. I originally thought that this was just going to be another one of those “Disneyesque” family movies with horrible one-liners and incredibly cheesy acting. Perhaps I believed this because of Efron’s past performance and film selections. After all, he is another Disney prodigy. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but it’s just not what I’m into. That being said and done, I was pleasantly surprised with 17 Again, and you may be as well.
New Line Cinema’s adaptation of this transformation story was actually more adult-oriented than I expected. Not realizing it until I received the production notes, this film is PG-13 and takes on some themes that one might not expect out a film marketed the way it has been. In fact, I could tell this would be rather different than the norm during the first scene when you find out that Zac Efron’s character, Mike O’Donnell, has a girlfriend that is pregnant. Not exactly the squeaky-clean theme that I had imagined.
However, the beginning of the film started just as I predicted the film would be in its entirety. Mike is the star high school basketball player, SURPRISE SURPRISE, with his future set as long as he does not screw up the game that college recruiters are present. The audience starts off with a shot of the sweaty, shirtless Zac Efron shooting some hoops and quickly becomes a dance number with Zac and the cheerleaders before the game starts. My first thought was here is another false reality film with Zac Efron as a basketball star with choreographed dance numbers. Fortunately this was the only dance number of the film.
This week’s Saturday Night Live, hosted by the teen heartthrob, actually featured a satire on the High School Musical films when Zac Efron came back to a high school graduation to let the students know that the real world did not feature choreographed dance numbers and students breaking into song. Funny enough that’s basically what happened at the start of 17 Again. The writing toward the beginning was making me cringe. Luckily, the film made a drastic turn for the better once Mike O’Donnell’s older version, Matthew Perry, came into the picture.
Mike O’Donnell has always been bothered by the “what if…” he actually stuck with basketball. Now Mike has a dead-ending job, a falling apart marriage, and two kids he doesn’t know very well. Mike ends up magically transforming into the 17-year-old version of him in present time. This is the “standard transformation story” that you may come to expect, but I give credit to the writers cracking a little joke about this. There isn’t much reasoning behind how it happens, however there is enough reasoning why it did. Now Mike must figure out why he has been transformed and if he really needs to change anything at all. A classic story of not realizing what you had already in front of you.
I am okay with this though. 17 Again is actually quite comical. There are the tear jerker moments along with those very sappy, yet not too cheesy, goosebump moments. Mike O’Donnell’s best friend Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon), is a fantastic choice for great comic delivery. You may know him from Reno 911 and several other flamboyant characters. Mike’s daughter Maggie is played by the beautiful Michelle Trachtenberg. Okay, maybe I had a crush on her growing up. Nonetheless, she and Zac Efron both have some phenomenal scenes. Zac has proven himself as a talented actor to me; now let’s see how long it will take for the rest of the over 18 male audience to notice.
I realize this may be a little long for a review of this film, but I was quite impressed. I walked out of the theater satisfied and realized while I was watching that I was laughing way too much. I don’t expect many of my friends to see this movie, but I am sure if their girlfriends force them too that it may become their guilty pleasure as it has for me. I think I am bowing my head in shame.
17 Again does however fall short from being anything different or being an instant classic. What it lacks it makes up for in comedy and good casting. It’s another fun, corky spring film that looks to have a bit of a wider target audience than one may think. Take a gander.