three out of five stars
Curse those confounded expectations: this airbrushed Zac Efron vehicle is really not so bad. Crucially, it showcases a performance by the High School Musical moppet that is so warm and winning it almost made me want to revisit those earlier button-eyed, song-and-dance antics.
Efron plays Mike, the 17-year-old reincarnation of a middle-aged sourpuss (Matthew Perry) who has squandered his promise and alienated his family. As is the way in such movies, Mike gets the chance to relive his youth and starts strolling the halls of his old alma mater, fending off his pouting daughter, riding to the rescue of his bullied son, and learning some important life lessons along the way.
The script is an assortment of sugared sentiment and Day-Glo contrivances. And yet there is something convincing - even poignant - about the teenaged Mike, a prissy old celibate in the guise of a hormonal Adonis. When he's not preaching abstinence to the boys, Efron can be found earnestly lecturing a group of incredulous girls on the value of self-respect. "You don't have to respect me," one informs him. "You don't even have to remember my name."
CONTRARY to widespread expectation, Zac Efron star vehicle 17 Again is not that bad. In fact, it’s actually quite enjoyable thanks largely to the charisma of its star man, some nice supporting performances and the presence of a director who boasts a decidedly indie sensibility.
Burr Steers may be best known for the rom-com How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, but he made his debut with the brilliant indie flick Igby Goes Down and that darker, more carefree spirit is often in evidence here.
17 Again basically follows Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a former high school star pupil who walked out on a basketball scholarship in favour of marrying his pregnant high school sweetheart.
Years later, finds life hasn’t turned out the way he expected (he’s facing divorce and his kids don’t want to know), O’Donnell yearns for the chance for a second chance.
But when he’s magically transformed back to the age of 17 again (and played by Efron), he suddenly finds himself facing the unexpected chance to put things right… so long as he can act his age and prevent his own daughter from developing a crush on him!
Steers’ film may be as mainstream and crowd-pleasing as they come, but it also boasts a feel-good quality that’s difficult to avoid giving into.
Yes, there’s plenty to please the teenage Efron fans (including the pin-up star topless) and the screenplay isn’t without its juvenile moments (some of which are cringe-inducingly bad).
But it has also some pleasingly grown-up ones, too, as well as some icky ones.
Efron handles the emotional arcs well and is effortlessly charismatic, but he’s strongly supported by Perry – who isn’t given enough to do – and the excellent Leslie Man (brilliant as O’Donnell’s somewhat confused wife).
And while early comparisons to the High School Musical franchise are sure to stem from scenes involving Efron’s character playing basketball and even performing a song and dance routine, it’s very much a smoke-screen to get the fanbase in before proving to them that there’s much more to Efron than meets the eye.
17 Again isn’t a complete image make-over and doesn’t take too many risks, but it does leave you with a big sloppy grin on your face. In truth, there’s a surprising amount to like.
Let's assume loyal Zac Efron fans will provide the core audience for 17 Again. The surprise factor is that the film has just enough charm and good humour in its own right to broaden that demographic to a wider, recession-hit audience in search of undemanding, feel-good fun. It may not be in the big league, but healthy global returns should help to confirm Efron as a box-office draw with an appeal that resonates beyond the High School Musical franchise.
Jason Filardi's canny script doesn't have an original idea in its head. Instead, it offers a patchwork quilt of tried-and-tested body swap/life lessons templates from It's A Wonderful Life to Freaky Friday,13 Going On 30 and beyond. It works because of Efron's sheer likeability, a strong supporting ensemble and direction by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) that has the pace and confidence to sweep aside the many reservations about a story which requires a substantial suspension of disbelief.
The tale begins in 1989 when Mike O'Donnell (Efron) is the star basketball player at Hayden High School. His talents even include joining the cheerleaders for a pre-match dance routine. His future is boundless and rosy until girlfriend Scarlet (Allison Miller) announces that she is pregnant. Dreams of college are sacrificed to the reality of their situation although why he can't be a student and a parent is one of the screenplay's many unanswered questions. Twenty years later, Mike (Matthew Perry) is an embittered loser on the brink of divorce from Scarlet (Leslie Mann) and a virtual stranger to his teenage children Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight). Passed over for promotion, a despondent Mike takes a sentimental journey to his old high school and meets an elderly janitor. After tumbling into a rainswept river, he emerges as an athletic teenager once more with the chance to relive the past and address his regrets.
17 Again coasts along on the familiarity of a premise that is exploited for easy laughs and tear-jerking sentiment. Heading back to high school, Mike discovers that his daughter is dating the bad boy bully who has been making life hell for his gauche son. A good deal of the film's charm comes from the way the concerns of an outraged parent are given voice by a teenage hottie and from the creepily inappropriate romantic feelings that start to develop between the teenage Mike and the grown-up Scarlet (reminiscent here of Big).
Efron has the clean-cut good looks of a young Tom Cruise and the good guy appeal of Michael J Fox at the time of the Back To The Future series. His shirtless scenes will please fans and although the role of Mike makes few demands on him, he handles some of the hearttugging monologues with enough sincerity to suggest he has the talent to develop into a strong all-rounder.
In its favour, 17 Again isn't just a carefully calculated star vehicle. Efron is surrounded by engaging talents with Leslie Mann effectively conveying the emotional confusion of the older Scarlet and Thomas Lennon providing wry comic relief as Mike's nerdy best pal Ned, a Star Wars fan who finds true love by whispering sweet nothings to the school principal in the elf language from Lord Of The Rings.
three out of five stars
Not since the days of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic has one actor managed to whip up so much frenzy among the nation’s teenage girls. Quite fitting really, considering that Zac Efron frequently cites DiCaprio’s illustrious movie career as inspiration for his own. The difference is, that by the time DiCaprio starred in Titanic he had already garnered one Oscar nomination and starred in over ten movies, while Efron has built his reputation solely on the basis of a Disney made-for-television film series. Not that it’s a bad thing - in fact, last year’s High School Musical 3 proved that Efron had the box office pulling power to generate over £170 million of revenue worldwide. But, without an established franchise behind him, can he convince outside of his comfort zone?
Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry/Zac Efron) is facing a midlife crisis – at 37 years old, he’s stuck in a dead-end job as a pharmaceutical salesman, estranged from his wife (Leslie Mann), out-of-touch with his two teenage kids and yearning for his glory days as a high-school stud with a promising basketball career. As luck would have it, he stumbles across a mysterious janitor who appears to know exactly how he's feeling and one quick, painless rain storm later, he wakes up to find himself aged 17 again, with the chance to relive his life.
Piece of cake, right? Wrong. Mike soon learns that his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) is dating the school bully, who is in turn tormenting his son (Sterling Knight). Not only that, but as the new kid, he's back at the bottom of the school pecking order and has no idea how to cope with the teens of today. Okay, so the story is hardly ground-breaking in its originality, but what makes 17 Again stand out is Efron himself, who exhibits that indefinable ‘It’ factor and displays a surprising knack for physical comedy.
Exuding charm and likeability, he shines in his ability to tackle sweet fatherly talks with his unsuspecting children, while also trying to reconnect with his wife and dodge the inappropriate advances of his underage classmates. Expect moral messages and soppy monologues aplenty, but a witty script and some hilarious set pieces mean the tried-and-trusted theme of not taking life for granted comes across as suitably refreshed and modern.
Let's face it, for someone who wants to break free of the mould, Efron is hardly stretching himself here - in fact, he seems more than happy to play up to his hardcore fan-base. But, the old mantra of 'If it works, don't fix it' certainly applies and without a doubt, this is his movie. Younger fans of HSM should be warned that 17 Again marks a more mature Efron-outing, as evidenced by the themes of teenage pregnancy and high-school sex, but the film never goes too far beyond the sensibilities of Efron's target audience and the strong moral themes are always lurking in the background.
Mentioning the lack of realism seems pretty redundant in light of the overall storyline, and in the end it doesn’t really matter as the film manages to charm with an appropriate balance of the silly and the heartwarming. Cringeworthy? Yes. Predictable? Absolutely. But, it's also a whole lot of fun and has more than enough laugh out loud moments to keep you satisfied, making for perfect Bank Holiday viewing and you'll be hard pressed not to find yourself leaving the cinema with a warm, fuzzy glow.
7 out of 10
Is there anything Zac Efron can't do?
The 21-year-old actor can sing and dance at the Oscars. He can wow legions of screaming fans. And in "17 Again" he proves he can carry a movie on his shoulders.
As he approaches middle-age, Mike (Matthew Perry) realises his life hasn't turned out the way it was meant to: he's separated from his wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann), hated by his snarky teenage kids, and living with his uber-nerd best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon).
Via a ridiculous, just-go-with-it magical twist, Mike is given another shot at his youth and transformed back into his 17-year-old self (played by Efron). Cue laughs as the newly teenage Mike goes back to high-school, confronts bullies, befriends his own children, and tries to reconnect with Scarlett.
The implausibly silly plot is almost irrelevant, since the real strength of "17 Again" is its cast: Efron is an effortlessly charismatic leading man; Lennon wins fans as his character flirts awkwardly with the austere school principal (The Office's Melora Hardin); and Mann amuses as Scarlett, who's made increasingly uncomfortable by the young Mike's attempts to bond with her.
There are shaky moments, mostly because the film never really knows what audience it's going for. It's a little too grown-up for tweens, a little too simple to be more than an easy pleasure for older audiences. That said, there's plenty of laughs that grown-ups will appreciate, while Zac's admirers will squeal every time he tosses his trademark hair or beams at the camera.
Unlike his "High School Musical" co-stars, Efron isn't just some bland Disney robot. He has potential to turn into a true Hollywood superstar - keep an eye on him.
What's On TV UK
You can only return to the well so many times until you need to dig a new one. So runs the old saying. It is not a phrase that has ever been uttered in Hollywood, where 17 Again is the latest body-swap comedy to join a long list of movies including the likes of Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, 13 Going on 30 and the imperishable classic of the genre, Big.
Truth be told, this starring vehicle for current teen idol Zac Efron isn’t half bad, as Adele and I discovered when we attended the movie’s UK premiere two weeks ago.
OK, so the contents of the pail from this latest visit to the age-exchange well aren’t as sparkling as Big, but they’re far from being muddy dregs.
The movie opens in 1989 when Efron’s 17-year-old jock, Mike O’Donnell, is a high-school basketball star (a familiar guise for Efron, natch, after High School Musical). He’s on the verge of winning a college sports scholarship when his girlfriend, Scarlet, tells him she is pregnant. Mike does the decent thing and jacks in his hoop dreams to knuckle down to the role of husband and father.
Twenty years later, Efron’s Mike has turned into a disgruntled Matthew Perry. His marriage to Scarlet has turned sour, he can’t connect with his teenage kids and his job is going pear-shaped. If only he could turn back the clock…
Of course, this is what happens, thanks to the mystical intervention of a twinkling, white-haired old-timer who just happens to be on hand, and the thirtysomething Mike find himself inhabiting the body of his teenage self.
With the help of his old friend, bullied nerd-turned billionaire Ned (Thomas Lennon), Mike re-enrols in school, hoping to get a second shot at fulfilling his teenage dreams. It’d be good, too, if he could boost the confidence of insecure son Alex (Sterling Knight), steer daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) away from her loutish boyfriend, and prevent Scarlet (Leslie Mann) from going through with their divorce.
Naturally, none of this is quite as easy to achieve as he hopes. His first efforts at high-school cool fall flat (“What did you do? Mug K-Fed?” sneers one girl at his hip-hop attire) and his relationships with his daughter and wife threaten to turn icky and inappropriate while he’s in his teenage body.
Yes, we’ve seen this shtick before, but Efron’s charm is effortless, Mann is dependably funny, and Lennon’s sci-fi obsessed dork almost steals the show when, posing as Mike’s father, he tries to woo the school’s starchy principal (Melora Hardin).
Yet there’s one aspect of the film that I find hard to swallow. No, not the body swap but the far-fetched notion that the exceedingly slight Efron could ever be a star jock. Come off it! He’s tiny. He barely comes up to the ref’s navel. And when there’s a jump off, he doesn’t so much stand shoulder to shoulder with the opposing player as shoulder to hip. Hoop star? I just don’t buy it. If I’m missing something, Efron’s fans should please put me right.
I try to go with an open mind into any movie I see; how can you really judge a movie without watching it first? Despite that though I do catch myself disregarding movies, because of the first impressions of the plot or the actor. I had that here with 17 Again: a starring vehicle for the new Disney poster child Zac Efron, with a Freaky Friday twist? Nah, not for me. And yet surprisingly it was.
In 1989, Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) is the star of his high school basketball team, with a bright future and a college scholarship almost in his grasp. He throws it all away though when he finds out his girlfriend Scarlet is pregnant and asks her to marry him. 20 years later Mike’s (now Matthew Perry) life is falling apart: his marriage to Scarlet is on the brink of a divorce, he’s got no real relationship with his teenage kids and he’s living with his high school nerd-turned-billionaire best friend Ned. But Mike gets a second chance when he is magically transformed to 17 again.
The age transformation gimmick has been rehashed so many times in Hollywood: kids wanting to be older, adults wanting to be young again, we’ve seen it all before. Freaky Friday. Big. And now 17 Again. Add to that plot lines borrowed from other ‘teen’ movies, like the Back To The Future “must not attract the family member” and you’ve got a movie that reeks of unoriginality. Regardless of that though, 17 Again is a funny and entertaining teen movie.
As much as I hate to admit it, that mainly comes because of the likability of Zac Efron. In all previous movies I’ve seen with him, he comes off as a little too charming, a little too smug; I never got why so many teenage girls were so hysterical about him. But with 17 Again his charisma carries the entire movie. Zac Efron just charms the socks off of you and you can’t help but like him.
The rest of the supporting cast are great too. While Matthew Perry doesn’t get that much screen time, it’s his performance at the start of the movie that makes you begin to care for the character of Mike. Most scenes with Mike’s best friend Ned are hilarious: he has the best pop culture one-liners, his entire house is full of geeky memorabilia, his wardrobe is outrageous and his antics to woo the high school headmistress are awkwardly funny. There’s a brilliant scene at the start of the movie where Ned and Mike have fight with Ned’s Lord of the Rings and Star Wars props. Leslie Mann is great as Scarlet, although she doesn’t get as much comedy time as we’ve seen from her in previous movies.
The only drawback I had with 17 Again is it’s wrap-up. After the predictable reveal, the movie ends pretty quickly, giving almost no screentime to the stories of the other characters.
17 Again is a light funny movie, which deserves a wider audience than just hysterical Zac Efron devotees. Yes, teenage girls are going to love it, but there’s more in this movie that will attract others too. I was expecting a movie I’d hate, but instead I discovered I actually did enjoy it. 17 Again never reaches the heights of teen classics, like Mean Girls or Clueless, but it’s an entertaining 102 minutes and well worth paying a cinema ticket for.
This is... UK
three out of five stars
“IF that boy were an apple, he’d be a delicious!” coos a smitten, female high school student as Zac Efron’s teen dreamboat struts through the hallways of 17 Again.
For the next hour-and-a-half, Burr Steers’s body-swap comedy bows down at the altar of the High School Musical pin-up as he single-handedly teaches the young people of the world how to behave with dignity.
17 Again is glossy wish fulfilment writ large.
Thirty-seven year-old Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) feels like he has been dealt successively bad hands by fate, with no end in sight to his misery.
His wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has thrown him out, his children Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight) despise him and, to add insult to injury, he has just been passed over for promotion at work.
In a freakish twist, Mike tumbles over a bridge into a whirlpool and is magically transformed into his 17-year-old self (Efron).
Having recovered from shock of the metamorphosis, Mike realises his new look is a gift not a curse.
“This is my chance to have my life over, but to do it right. I’m going back to high school!” he tells sci-fi fixated best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), who poses as his father to ensure he sails through the admissions process with Principal Masterson (Melora Hardin).
In his guise as the new boy, Mike bonds with his daughter and son, showing them the error of their hormone-driven ways while reminding Scarlett that her marriage isn’t beyond repair.
17 Again opens with a gratuitous shot of Efron topless, dripping with sweat, practising basketball court.
A superfluous dance number panders shamelessly to fans of High School Musical before the plot fast-forwards to the present day and a simple premise borrowed wholesale from It’s A Wonderful Life.
Screenwriter Jason Filardi keeps everything wholesome, inspiring the target teen audience to dream with his hero’s basketball mantra: “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play.”
17 Again plays moderately well.
three out of five stars
As the poet wrote, "If life had a second edition, how I would correct the proofs".
American cinema is obsessed with the idea of returning to the past and thereby fixing it. Latest in line is Matthew Perry as a washed-up executive, alienated from his teenage kids and weeks away from divorcing his wife (Leslie Mann). One night he is magicked into the body of his 17-year-old self, who turns out to be Zac Efron, high-school heart-throb and basketball supremo. Can he take advantage of his second chance and save his ailing marriage in the process? Yes, of course. It's silly, but the generational love matches it entrains – a "super-inappropriate" crush on your friend's mom – and the marvellous portrait of arrested development enacted by the nerdy best friend (Thomas Lennon) lend a comic snap and crackle missing from other such bodyswap efforts. Perry himself looks like he could do with a trip to the past, but he may get a hit with this.
Daily Express UK
three out of five stars
FREAKY FRIDAY meets It’s A Wonderful Life in 17 Again, an unoriginal but serviceable vehicle for High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron.
Body swap comedies were all the rage in the Eighties but this revisits the theme with enough charm to create its own appeal.
Twenty years ago Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) was the star basketball player at his high school with a promising future stretching ahead of him.
Then his sweetheart discovered she was pregnant and he decided to do the right thing.
Now he’s stuck in a rut at work, heading for divorce from Scarlett (Leslie Mann) and drifting away from his children.
Spilling his heart to billionaire buddy Ned (Thomas Lennon) is the start of a process that finds him magically returned to the body of his 17-year old self, which is where Zac Efron comes in.
Now hunky Mike (Efron) has the chance to relive his teenage years with the benefit of hindsight.
Enrolling at the local high school alongside his own children leaves him torn between acting the responsible parent or enjoying the freedom of being the new kid on the block.
The situation is cleverly exploited for light laughs and the kind of sunny, undemanding entertainment that is easy to consume.
two out of five stars
Aimed squarely at the teen market, this vehicle for High School Musical heart-throb Zac Efron is a body-switch comedy that blends Big, Freaky Friday, Back to the Future and even It's a Wonderful Life. Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is a walking disappointment, overlooked for promotion, ignored by his teenage kids and thrown out by wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) — it was their shotgun marriage in 1989 that ended Mike's promising future in basketball. But some hokily convenient business with a magic janitor on a bridge transforms him back into his 17-year-old self (Efron), and he re-enrols at high school. The scenarios that ensue are predictable and undynamic — his own daughter comes onto him, he defeats the school bully with distinctly adult logic — and while Efron has charm, Perry is all-too-briefly on screen, so it's down to nerdy best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon) to supply offbeat comic substance. And, despite one shoehorned-in opportunity, Efron fans might miss his singing and dancing.
The List UK
Better than you might expect age reversal comedy in which a now frustrated and middle aged former teenage pregnancy dad (Perry) gets another chance when he is transformed back to his 17-year-old self (Efron).
17 AGAIN *** (102 mins) PG
Finally free of the High School Musical franchise tween pop sensation Zac Efron does well as he trades in his singing and dancing credentials for pratfalls and goofball humour in this pleasant, forgettable age-reversal comedy.
Times Online UK Sunday - Peter Whittle
two out of five stars
Zac Efron is the small but beautifully formed star of the High School Musical movies currently setting aflutter the hearts of millions of teenage girls — a fair proportion of whom seemed to be packed into the press screening of this, his breakout film. Looking like a cross between Michael J Fox and David Cassidy, he stars in the simple tale of a thirtysomething (the older self played by Matthew Perry) who gets his wish to go back in time and right all the wrongs he made at — yes — high school. At first, it is all highly resistible: the heart sinks at the heavy-handed attempts at humour, and there’s none of the charm or finesse of, say, Tom Hanks’s Big. But in the end, its simple brand of old-fashioned goodwill wins you over. Not that the girls at our screening needed much convincing.