April 25, 2009
Review - " 17 Again " - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Directed by: Burr Steers
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie mann, Matthew Perry, Sterling Knight, Michelle
Zac Efron is starring in 17 Again, a run-of-the-mill family comedy that would
be tiresome if not for Efron and a few of the other cast members. Together,
these actors kept me from constantly looking at my wrist so I could see how
many minutes were left in the movie.
17 Again drags out every cliche from body-changing movies and
unfortunately, doesn't try anything new or suspenseful. In this particular
variation, Mike (Matthew Perry) is still reliving his high-school days, when he
was the BMOC and a basketball star and everything was perfect, until he
made a choice that has landed him with a dead-end job, two kids in high
school who practically ignore him, and a wife (Leslie Mann) who's divorcing
him because she's justifiably tired of his eternal whininess. So he wishes he
were his teenage self again, and does so in front of a Clarence-esque
janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) -- and whammo! He's 17, but everyone else
stayed the same age. Now he can go back to high school and help his kids
and shoot lots of hoops and make it all better.
The teens in this movie lead much duller lives. In fact, they're remarkably squeaky-clean -- I cannot imagine a house party
thrown when parents aren't home that does not include any alcohol, drugs, or sex, but perhaps I've led a sordid life. As a
grownup in a teen's body, Mike appears to be immune to teen hormones or desires, and his friend won't even let him drink
a beer because he's "underage" -- instead, he lectures kids about abstinence and respecting themselves, and apart from
one amusing scene with a bully in a cafeteria, is generally the dullest of squares.
Fortunately, Efron manages to carry off the annoying grown-up persona with natural charm, energy, and an unwillingness
to try to resemble Matthew Perry. He's helped by Leslie Mann as his grown-up wife Scarlett, who takes what might have
been a Standard Wife role and injects a weirdly flaky humor that reminded me of Madeline Kahn. In fact, I think Mann
needs to get more Kahn-like comedy roles; if she's going to play shrewish like she did in Knocked Up, let her go
completely over the top. Mann and Melora Hardin (The Office), who played the high-school principal, were some of the
high points of the film. Would someone please write a smart comedy movie for these actresses?
Thomas Lennon, as Mike's uber-nerdy best friend Ned, was unfortunately stuck in a role that reminded me of the
completely gross sandwich Mike the teen makes in one scene: Nutella and mayo and Cheetos and other unspeakable
junk-food garnishes. Mike's such a huge Star Wars fan that his bed is a land speeder, and he's also a Tolkien geek, and
a role-playing game freak, and a giant fan of anything possibly related to sci-fi and fantasy. Just one of those
extra-cheesy ingredients would be sufficient ... but the filmmakers want to milk every laugh possible out of Mike's rich-nerd
lifestyle, and in the process leave us feeling somewhat overwhelmed and underamused. I did like the use of light sabers
when Mike reveals to Ned that he's a teen again, and the Tolkien dinner-date scene was hilarious (I'm enough of a geek
to wonder which of Tolkien's elvish languages they were using, if any), but less would have been more overall.
17 Again is too careful of its need to be a wholesome family film with a moral -- I'm not sure how it even managed a PG-13
rating, except maybe for that one implication of sex at the very very end. It trods the same tired, well-worn path as other
comedies in the same genre, takes no risks, brings nothing new. As a result, it is an amusing, albeit predictable film that
seems more suited to the Disney Channel than movie theater (in fact there's a scene in the very beginning where Efron is
performaing a well choreographed dance with the cheerleading squad before "the big game" which made me wonder if I
was watching "High School Musical"). On the other hand, if you survive the eye-rolling cliches, the movie may make a Zac
Efron fan out of you ... it's up to you to decide if that's a good thing. I think so.