After much deliberation, I have finally decided that I will feature 17 Again for this week’s film fave. I never, ever thought I would feature a Zac Efron film as a fave, but I have managed to surprise myself.
The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the 17 Again trailer was 13 Going On 30: Guy Version. I refused to see it based on that premise alone, even though 13 Going On 30 wasn’t even all that bad, as far as chick flicks go.
One of the first things I remember seeing is our adorable Efron taking his all-too-familiar place on the basketball court. As it was strikingly similar to his three High School Musical breakout films, I wondered if he would join up with the cheerleaders and do a dance before the game started. I was right. He did.
But something was different this time around. The creators clearly understood the similarities between this scene and High School Musical, and I then concluded that this was an intentional “reverse psychology” move ultimately designed to separate the young star from his former sing-and-dance roles.
Matthew Perry portrays the 30-ish Mike O’Donnell, who considers his life a waste. He has two children and a beautiful wife who couldn’t be more distant from him. He blames his failures on his wife and they have filed for divorce. On the eve of the finalization of the divorce papers, Mike retreats to his old high school to look at his shrine from his old basketball days. While reminiscing, he is approached by the creepy janitor. One thing leads to another and O’Donnell has suddenly transformed into his younger, more handsome and Efron-y self. (One of the more distinguishing parts of this film is that Mike O’Donnell is the only one who goes back in time. The time stays in the present, but it’s only Mike’s body that goes back to high school.) At this stage, Mike decides it’s time to go back to high school- the same high school he went to, and the same one his two teens attend.
I like this movie for a few reasons:
Zac Efron was impressive. We all know the guy can sing, dance and pretend like he can actually play basketball, but I was really impressed with how well he mimicked the many ‘isms’ of Matthew Perry, and visa versa. He was very fatherly, and the transitions between Perry and Efron went smoothly.
The subplot dealing with O’Donnell’s best friend was hilarious. Ned Gold, played by Thomas Lennon, was always the outcast. He was so in high school, where the popular Mike O’Donnell looked after him, and he continued to be as they grew older. His romantic advances towards a very special person he meets yield unexpected results, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in awhile.
To be completely frank, what I liked most about the movie was that it was not laden with sex scenes, nudity or uncomfortable jokes. Sure, they walked right along that edge once in awhile, but they didn’t use extreme crudeness just to compensate for poor writing.
All in all, I was impressed. I set my expectations very low, and they were greatly exceeded. It was a step above the rest of its genre.
4 out of 5 stars.
Mckay Stevens is a film correspondent for Rhombus. His editors are very nervous about this newest bout of Efron love, but welcome it nonetheless.
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