On DVD: 17 Again


Let’s be real, nobody actually wants to be 17 again, but it makes for decent comedy. “17 Again” borrows on that classic age reversal concept as made famous by “Big,” “Freaky Friday,” and “13 Going on 30” only it’s aimed at guys. I know, hard to believe that’s who would like this movie most, especially with “High School Musical” pretty boy Zac Efron in the leading role, but it’s true.

I don’t know much about screenwriter Jason Filardi, but I’m betting the guy was like me in high school — a dork. Maybe not a Grade A dork, but a dork no less. “17 Again” is littered with “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” jokes as embodied in supporting character Ned (“Reno 911!” star Thomas Lennon), an unmarried black-card carrying nerd who sleeps in a landspeeder bed. I mean, somehow a lightsaber duel gets incorporated into this movie — a lightsaber duel.

You especially know a dork has written a movie when the main character was a talented jock who dated an attractive girl in high school. Mike O’Connell (Matthew Perry) gave up his future in high school to marry his pregnant girlfriend, now his wife with whom he’s recently been separated (Leslie Mann). Without his sweetheart, being out of touch with his kids and after failing to land a critical job promotion, Mike starts to regret his life choices until a creepy old janitor at his old high school gives him a chance to do it over again.

Now a teenager (Efron), Mike pretends to be his pal Ned’s son and Ned uses his wealth to pull strings and enroll him back in high school where he forms a new connection with his two kids, his son Alex (Sterling Knight), the victim of jock pranks and his daughter Maggie (former teen star Michelle Trachtenberg), who’s dating the school jock/bully/jerk (Hunter Parrish of “Weeds.”) Eventually he starts seeing a lot of his wife, which makes for some awkward comedy. Mann delivers a great line reminiscent of her husband’s (Judd Apatow) comedies as she explains to Efron that this is not some kind of cougar or “mother i’d like to” situation.

The movie does lean a bit much on the comic device of Mike forgetting he’s supposed to be acting like a teenager and not his kids’ parent. There are one too many random righteous adult speeches. The gimmick works a few times, such as once instance when he lectures to some stereotypical girls who are saying suggestive things to him about respecting themselves only to give up and say “this is another father’s problem.” Other than that, we’re reminded this is a re-treaded comedy concept.

What’s most likable is that the film understands it’s built on convention. It doesn’t try to break that formula, but it catches us off guard a few times by not carrying out any overused plot device completely by-the-book, which at least suggests that Filardi, director Burr Steers and producer Adam Shankman who’s churned out a good number of successful formula-like films, were trying to go for quality. After seeing this film, “Hairspray” and “Bedtime Stories,” I’d feel pretty good about going to see or at least renting any other Shankman-influenced film.

And I’ll even admit I was slightly impressed by Zac Efron.

3.5/5 Stars

Directed by: Burr Steers

Written by: Jason Filardi

Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment