Movie Review for 17 Again (2009)

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17 Again (2009) [PG-13]
W.I.P. Scale™ Rating: $12.00

| Released on: 4/17/2009 | Running Time: 102 minutes |
| official web site | | preview trailer | |coverage of premiere |
| soundtrackZac Efron - 17 Again (Music from the Motion Picture) | | spoiler || 2cOrNot2c |

Directed by: Burr Steers ("Big Love")
Written by: Jason Filardi (Bringing Down the House)
Unsung Member of the Crew: Stunts – Mike Avery

Featured Cast: (where you might remember him/her from)
Zac Efron (High School Musical 3: Senior Year) • Leslie Mann (Drillbit Taylor) • Matthew Perry ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") • Thomas Lennon (Hancock) • Michelle Trachtenberg ("Gossip Girl") • Allison Miller ("Boston Legal") • Tyler Steelman (Beowulf) • Katerina Graham (Greek") • Sterling Knight ("Sonny with a Chance") • Melora Hardin (27 Dresses)

First off, a strong warning regarding 17 Again when it comes to parents and guardians of the younger, High School Musical / Zac Efron fan club members. The film is rated [PG-13] for a reason. While the film does do some nice little things to make it less obvious what’s going on at an adult level such as having Scarlett inform Mike of her pregnancy off screen but in a way that grownups will figure it out, the film nonetheless, possesses very adult themes throughout. Parents and guardians are encouraged to see the film first before taking or permitting their children to view the film. It’s certainly not meant for children under 10 or possibly even 12. Honestly, kids under that age are not even likely to relate to much of what’s going on. The film, as the trailer promotes, is about a washed up sales executive, Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) who not so secretly blames his current failure of a life on a decision he made during senior year of high school to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Scarlett (Allison Miller). His wife, now so fed up with his morose attitude, played as an adult by Leslie Mann, has filed for divorce forcing him to move in with his now millionaire high school best friend, Ned (Thomas Lennon). After disastrous conversations with his two children, Maggie (Michell Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight) and losing a promotion to a woman half his age and experience, he revisits the halls of Hayden High where he meets an elder janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) who asks him, “I’ll bet you wish you had it to do it all over again.” Before he knows it he’s falling off a bridge into a vortex and finds himself 17 again. After Ned tried to hack him to death with movie props, he realizes that ‘newly returned to 17’ Mike is the real deal and is convinced to enroll him back in high school as his son, Mark (Zac Efron). Mark isn’t sure if he’s there to relive his life or what, but slowly he wonders if this isn’t about his kids rather than him. Alex is not the star ball player he hoped, rather he’s constantly being hazed by the basketball team captain, Stan (Hunter Parrish) who, coincidentally, happens to be the main squeeze of his daughter Maggie. He swiftly befriends Alex hoping to build his confidence and stands up to the bully Stan one day in the cafeteria in what has to be the most bully-humbling scene since that in 1983’s A Christmas Story. In the meantime, Ned has fallen for Hayden High’s principal, Jane Masterson (Melora Hardin) whom he keeps trying to woo with extravagant gifts and making quite a fool of himself. The film is at it’s funniest yet most uncomfortable moments when Alex introduces Mark to his mother. She immediately detects his looks as being nearly identical to that of her high school sweetheart. It is this dynamic, in fact, that makes the movie. (see the spoiler for additional plot details) The story becomes one of redemption as well as reconciliation as Mike faces the reality of the life he’s lost.

... the talent of Zac Efron makes this movie.
As the poster reveals, the talent of Zac Efron makes this movie. Still able to effectively portray a high school kid due to his slight yet athletic build and boyish face, his actual age and apparently much thought in the character’s development, makes for an incredibly mature performance layered with clever nuance. While the age-defying or body switching concept in film is nothing new, Efron puts his own spin on the character who suddenly becomes the object of everyone’s affection from the entire cheerleading squd to his best friend’s mom. Equally compelling were the performances of Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg as the wrestle with Marks hopes, plans, and dreams for them. In one hilarious scene, Mark apparently forgets he’s not Mike and proceeds to inform Maggie that her life as she’s just outlined it, one where she marries Stan and settles for a neighboring community college instead of Georgetown where she’s already been accepted, is never going to happen. Ironically, she has to inform him that he’s not her father. One of the film’s chief distractions, however, is the Ned character and his side-story. While his wealth provides the answers to all of Mark’s needs, Ned’s awkward affection for all things sci-fantasy and obsession with Principal Masterson was just way over the top. Thomas Lennon plays the character with a Jim Carey-like craze. Unfortunately, this dimension adds little to the film. Leslie Mann, handles the role of the adult Scarlett with grace realizing at times that her character is falling for Mark and that’s just plain inappropriate, she endows Scarlett with certain vulnerability that’s sweet and sensitive.

... the first movie of 2009 that has made me want to go right back in and see it AGAIN.
Director Burr Steers, previously known for directing episodes of “Big Love”, “Weeds”, and “The L Word” does a pretty darn good job with his first theatrical feature film. The film is excellently paced and cleverly shot. While a tad contrived, Jason Filardi’s script is full of nice touches. The film is mostly incredibly enjoyable, and most viewers will be pleasantly surprised even as the film as this semi-’been there’ feeling to it. Most of this comes from Efron’s whimsical yet charming portrayal of the dad regressed in body but not mind or soul. There’s something to be learned by all of us when it comes to regretting decisions we’ve made in life. 17 Again is the first movie of 2009 that has made me want to go right back in and see it AGAIN.

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