An article from the Courier-Herald (AUS):
If I could turn back time
FOR an actor trying to move on from the squeaky-clean Disney role that made him a teen heart-throb, Zac Efron's new movie might seem like a slightly unusual choice.
In the three High School Musical films, the most recent of which was released last December, Efron played Troy Bolton, the spunky star of the high school basketball team.
In his next movie, 17 Again, which opens in cinemas on Thursday, he plays Mike O'Donnell, the, er, spunky star of the high school basketball team.
But that's where the similarities end, says 21-year-old Efron.
He's right, too. Whereas High School Musical was a rather cheesy, all-singing, all-dancing spectacular made bigger each instalment by millions of screaming tweens around the world, 17 Again is a surprisingly solid entry into the well-worn genre of the body-swap comedy.
"Believe it or not, this is probably the least High School character around at the time considering the character is 37 playing a 17-year-old," Efron says.
"It's almost weird for him to go back to high school, and that was fun to play with as opposed to another high school romance."
That said, Efron acknowledges that he can't afford to burn the fans who made him one of the hottest actors on the planet.
Efron has big ambitions – including an action movie and a Judd Apatow comedy – but his approach to his career is much like his personal demeanour, careful and considered.
Efron is unfailingly polite and affable, even if personal questions about his life with girlfriend and HSM co-star Vanessa Hudgens are in no uncertain terms off the agenda.
"I am making an effort to choose carefully and I am taking my time because I really don't want to alienate anyone," he says of his new role.
"It didn't feel right to do a 180-turn at this moment – I have great fans and I would not want to disappoint them in any way. This is a movie for the entire family but hopefully a couple of older parents will appreciate this one."
In the film, the lead character Mike, a bitter and cynical father of two teenagers, is coasting into middle age and riddled with regrets. Then he's given the chance to go back to his 17-year-old self and put things right. Efron plays a younger Matthew Perry in the film and says he spent a lot of time observing and hanging with the Friends star to get his mannerisms down pat.
"I was already a fan of Friends, so I had seen quite a bit of Chandler, but it was really hanging out with Matt in person where I picked up a couple of small personality traits I was able to throw in," Efron says.
"Matthew smirks a lot where I have more of a smile. He also has a typical kind of delivery and sometimes if I wasn't getting it right I could just call him to ask him where one line came from or how he would feel if something happened to him.
"And he would put it in really easy terms. I remember asking him one time how he would feel if his daughter was hitting on him, and he said 'That's scarier than being mugged', and that was all I needed to hear."
But to really connect with the idea of fatherhood, Efron had to look no further than his own family. He describes his father David, an engineer at a power plant, as a "smart guy, but a dork" and embraced that for the role.
"There is a tendency to always want to play a cool character," Efron says, laughing.
"Troy was pretty cool, he was a nice guy, captain of the basketball team, a stud. That's fun to do because you want to be that character, but when you are playing a dad you have to make an effort to be cool and completely fail and look like a dork.
"That's inevitably the situation dads encounter with their teenagers – I certainly did. My dad would always try and use our lingo, saying 'Dude' or whatever, and it just comes off wrong."
Efron says that while his family was always supportive of his acting, it was always education that came first. He was accepted into film school at the University of Southern California and it was only comparatively late, once High School Musical had taken off, that he decided to pursue acting fulltime.
While he doesn't rule out further education in the future, having spent so much time on and around film sets he decided that going back to film school would be redundant.
"After I graduated from high school I decided to take my time to see if I could make a few good movies and see what I could learn there, as opposed to going to film school," he says.
"I found that on set I was learning so much more than what I could learn in a film program. Being on a working set is a very educational place – there are so many creative people who have to work towards one common goal, and inevitably they want to share what they do with you."
Next up on Efron's busy dance card was to be a remake of the 1980s teen classic Footloose – and as recently as a month ago he was still excited about the prospect and awaiting a final script. He recently pulled out of the project, telling a US website last week that after High School Musical and Hairspray, he wanted to move in a different direction.
"It doesn't mean no more musicals forever, but right now I had so much fun doing 17 Again that I think that's the direction I want to head in," he says.
Instead, and with High School Musical set to continue into a fourth film with him, he is planning a more serious role in the film The Death & Life of Charlie St Cloud, about a cemetery caretaker who communicates with his dead younger brother.
"It sounds very grim, but it's a fantastic story," he says. "It's a little bit more grown-up. It deals with some heavy material."
Also on the radar is a remake of the '60s animated series Jonny Quest, with Efron in the title role and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as his bodyguard mentor and companion. Efron says he would love to do it but it's a long way off if it happens – and he needs to work on his action skills first.
"There are so many action movies I would just not believe myself in, and I truly believe you have to earn the right to be in an action movie," he says.
"There are steps you have to take and respect you have to earn, and I have not necessarily done that yet. I don't want to be in an action role that is completely outlandish."
Former teen star and now respected actor Leonardo DiCaprio has become something of a mentor, and he recently had the following advice for Efron.
"He said, 'Oh, by the way, if you really want to mess this all up, try heroin'," Efron says. "I said, 'Thanks', and he said, 'No, seriously, that's pretty much the only way you're going to screw this up, and you shouldn't go down that road – it will mess you up without fail. Do not do drugs'."
Greg King's review, filmreview.net.au
Hunky teen idol Zac Efron (High School Musical, Hairspray, etc) returns to high school for this cliched role swapping comedy that will certainly appeal to its target audience. 17 Again covers territory that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the George Burns comedy 18 Again!, as well as Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, Jennifer Garner’s Suddenly 30, or the classic comedy Big, with Tom Hanks as the child suddenly grown up in an adult body. In all of these films, the hero is magically transformed into another incarnation of themselves, either as an adult or a child, and they get an opportunity to experience life from another perspective, learn some important life lessons about past mistakes or missed chances, and turn their lives around.
In this case, former Friends star Matthew Perry morphs into Zac Efron. Perry plays Mike O’Donnell, an underachieving adult who bemoans that his life has been wasted. At 17 he was the school’s champion basketball player, but he abandoned his chance at a basketball scholarship to support his pregnant girlfriend. Now his two teenage kids don’t talk to him and his wife (Leslie Mann) is in the process of divorcing him and transforming her own life. After a chance encounter with a mysterious school janitor, he is transformed into the 17-year-old version of himself.
Now named Mike Gold, he goes back to high school determined to relive his life and correct his past mistakes. He also gets closer to his two kids and learns many of those parental responsibilities he has shirked. He helps his son earn a spot on the school basketball team and cope with bullies. He also helps his daughter learn that the basketball captain and school jock is a jerk. He also gets closer to his ex-wife in a rather creepy way.
So far so formulaic… and there is little that is special about 17 Again, and the film holds no real surprises. Although the producers have cleverly used Efron’s popularity with teen audiences to deliver a message about abstinence.
This is a surprising mainstream comedy from director Burr Steers (a nephew of acclaimed author Gore Vidal), who previously made the edgy and nicely written coming of age comedy Igby Goes Down. The most interesting character here is actually Mike’s best friend Ned (played by comic actor Thomas Lennon, from Reno 911!, etc), a multi-millionaire computer geek who is basically an overgrown kid in an adult body – his bed is a large car and he collects fantasy figures, etc. He develops a relationship with the school’s frumpy principal in a subplot that adds an edgy, more adult overtone to an otherwise teen friendly comedy.
^That review is from some Australian dude who apparently didn't pay enough attention to get right the name Zac's character uses when he reenrolls at high school. I'm pretty sure he goes by Mark Freedman not Mike Gold. I could be wrong about the last name but he definitely goes by Mark. I won't argue that some of his points are probably true, but that mistake sort of undermines his credibility with me, lol.
ETA: ANOTHER SHORT REVIEW (FULL VERSION COMING LATER). From Manny the Movie Guy:
Speaking of "17 Again," I just got back from the screening, and let me tell ya, sure, there are hints of "Big" and "Back to the Future," but I laughed out loud and the chemistry of the actors are commendable!
And yes folks, Efron can act, and can go from comedy to drama without missing a beat! Watch this film when it comes out April 17.
Some twitter results from last night's screening:
Best video of this bunch, Access Hollywood Interview @ Showest:
AP Overview of Awards:
Some dude posted his videos from the press room, but they won't embed so click for video 1, 2.
17 Again Bust a Move Music Video:
Tom Lennon on Jay Leno: