If you had any doubts about whether Zac Efron is major star material, just watch the first few minutes of Burr Steers' 17 Again.
A young, shirtless teen is shooting hoops by himself in a school gymnasium. His sweaty, tightly muscled, yet graceful, body is flawless, and then the camera reveals the young man's face. At that very moment, there was a melting "Ahhhhhh!!!!!!" that arose from the audience at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13. It was as if "Love Potion No. 9" had been spritzed on the popcorn. "It's Zac!!!"
Like a young Paul Newman, Efron is almost outrageously pretty. He has no awkward angle. The camera simply has the hots for him.
But what's more consequential is that his presence alone makes a piece of semi-idiotic fluff -- which 17 Again inarguably is -- into a sporadically enjoyable film that will have you teary eyed by its finale. In fact, the only moments where the movie really falters is when Efron is off screen or when his sidekick, the screechingly annoying Thomas Lennon, is on.
The premise here is an oft-used one that clearly hasn't hurt the careers of Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday), Tom Hanks (Big), and Jodie Foster (the original Freaky Friday). An older person either exchanges his body with his child or through some unexplained force finds himself young again. Ninety minutes later this transformation causes all the romantically dysfunctional souls in the script to acknowledge that life is indeed worth living.
This time it's Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) who has spent the last twenty years complaining he gave up a promising basketball career to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Scarlet (Leslie Mann). What has he wound up with? Two teen-aged children who despise him and a wife who is divorcing him. What else could happen? How about losing his job selling "erection" aids.
Licking his wounds, Mike winds up at the high school where he was once so popular. While gazing at a photograph of his younger self in a display case, a mystical janitor confronts him. Then within hours and after some cheesy special effects, the Matthew-Perry Mike has metamorphosed into the Zac-Efron Mike.
With no place else to turn, Mike winds up at the home of his old pal Ned Gold (Lennon), who is a millionaire, Lord-of-the-Rings fanatical nerd with a problematic testicle. After first trying to kill Mike, Ned agrees to pose as his dad and enroll the newly pubescent chap into high school so Mike can resume a successful career shooting hoops.
So will Mike realize his dreams, win back his wife, and vanquish the school bully with the possibly "small wiener" who is dating his daughter and taping his son to a toilet? My lips are sealed. I won't even go into the discomforting scenes of near incest that would cause Freud to kick up his heels in Oedipal delight.
What's more interesting to ponder is whether Efron's talent will develop? After all, Newman at first was considered a lightweight who few took seriously.
And will Efron ever get out of high school? You're 21 already. Growing up isn't that bad.
(Please note that director Steers, who is Gore Vidal's nephew, also helmed and wrote one of the blackest, wittiest comedies of the decade, Igby Goes Down. What happened?)
Associated Press: Christy Lemire
two out of four stars
LOS ANGELES (AP) — "17 Again" is one of those movies that requires you to suspend all disbelief and assume that someone who looks like Zac Efron could, in 20 years, turn into someone who looks like Matthew Perry.
(Those must have been some rough years — either that or Rob Lowe wasn't available.)
Can't do it, you say? Well, that detail is just about as implausible as the film's premise itself: Mike O'Donnell (Perry), a miserable father of two on the brink of divorce, gets a chance to relive his high school days and improve his future by becoming 17 in the present day, all thanks to the magical powers of a mystical janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray).
It's always some odd figure on the fringe who brings about this kind of fantastic transformation, isn't it? This guy literally says to Mike: "I bet you wish you had it to do all over again."
Well yes, there are a lot of elements in "17 Again" that feel awfully familiar. Director Burr Steers, a long way from his darkly comic, coming-of-age debut "Igby Goes Down," takes you places you've been before — many times — in more charming movies like "Big," "13 Going on 30," "Freaky Friday," "Never Been Kissed" and even "Back to the Future." The idea of going back to high school is so overdone, there was even an entire episode of "Family Guy" that parodied it. (Jason Filardi is credited with writing "17 Again.")
But rather than changing his decision to abandon his dreams of basketball stardom and marry the girlfriend he knocked up, Mike realizes his true purpose is to reconnect with his wife, Scarlet (played as an adult by Leslie Mann), and teenage kids Maggie and Alex (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight). The result is facile and feel-good, not engaging or insightful.
Efron maintains the dreamy presence that made the tweens scream in the "High School Musical" series — those eyes! those cheekbones! — which is on full display when Mike-as-adult-as-kid gets a makeover from the K-Fed get-up he initially dons in a feeble attempt at fitting in. He steps out of a Porsche, purchased by his nerdy childhood best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon of "Reno 911!") who grew up to make it big as a computer geek, and with his aviator sunglasses and devil-may-care shag haircut, he looks like ... well, he looks like Zac Efron. At least Steers knows how to capitalize on his star's strongest attributes.
Efron also enjoys a couple of amusing scenes here as a grown-up delivering uptight diatribes in a boy's body, and he connects with Mann in a way that surprisingly isn't all that creepy. But he still seems too pretty and lightweight to be a persuasive leading man capable of carrying a film. It'll happen, though. There's time.
It certainly doesn't help his cause that he's been given such a cliched depiction of high school life in which to function. The jocks (the leader of whom is conveniently dating Mike's daughter), the nerds, the awkward cafeteria moments and an out-of-control house party — they're all there, with nothing new to give them fresh life.
It makes the singing-and-dancing hijinks of the East High Wildcats look downright subversive by comparison.
"17 Again," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying. Running time: 98 minutes. Two stars out of four.
Box Office Magazine
Within seconds of the new film 17 Again, the opening shot gives its hardcore tween audience exactly what their parents’ hard-earned money allows them to see: leading man Zac Efron playing basketball. And as an added bonus, Efron gets to play basketball topless and drenched in movie sweat. It’s true that the High School Musical alum has more to do in his new film than just dance and perform pratfalls but it’s also true that whatever plot 17 Again has will be lost on its young female audience because they’ve come to see Efron and everything else is an afterthought. His built-in audience and studio support ensure a strong opening weekend at the box office with moderate to negative reviews barely making a dent to Efron-lovers everywhere.
The film is a slightly modified tween take on It’s A Wonderful Life. Of course I’m dating myself by mentioning the Christmas classic so if you have no idea what It’s A Wonderful Life is, 17 Again is going to seem wildly original. The basic setup for both films is similar, a depressed and disillusioned man wishes his life were different and is shown by an angel how things would change if he never existed. In 17 Again, the man is Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) and he’s never gotten over senior year of high school. Young love overshadowed college which, years later, has led to two distant kids and a failed marriage. Enter a mystical high school janitor whose way of helping Mike is to transform him into his 17 year old self (Zac Efron), apparently to live out the present in his younger body and do things right the second time around. How fixing adult problems as a teenager seems like a good idea to anyone is beyond me but that’s the kind of logic 17 Again insists on using.
Mike’s high school troubles seem even more complicated than ever as he tries to deal with a new generation of adolescence. But in true movie logic, whenever there is a slight hint of conflict or envelope pushing, the film pulls back and retreats to safe territory. When young Mike interacts with his present family and threatens to change things by exposing his true self, bad sex jokes swap out real drama. Even worse is the film’s ending, which is (without revealing anything) a bunch of predictable nonsense. Ending on this note seems to spit in the face its audience. The ending, however, isn’t the only instance of audience disregard: director Burr Steers repeated uses fades to cover plot holes and logic leaps.
Tween audiences may be susceptible to Zac Efron’s smile and basketball skills but I’m sure their adult guardians will wonder what all the fuss is about.
The best thing that can be said about this gender-swapped trifle of a riff on Freaky Friday -- as a movie in itself -- is that it’s entirely inoffensive, even when it shouldn’t be. (The sex ed-class scene, for one, avoids feeling as icky and awkward as it could have.) The best thing we might be saying about this movie 20 years from now is that it was the first time that Zac Efron (High School Musical 3: Senior Year) showed real promise of a career as an adult... that is, if he plays it right and gets lucky and actually ends up with one. As plausibility goes, I’m not sure which is the least likely: that Matthew Perry (The Whole Ten Yards), as a man disappointed with his life, would meet a magic janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray: Daddy Day Camp) who would zap him back to his teen years (while still remaining in the 21st century) so he can “do it all over again”; that a youthenized, removed-from-his-grownup-misery Perry would regress into Efron (Perry, for all his own charms, is no cinema idol); or that the star jock that Perry/Efron was in high school would have been BFFs with the school’s biggest dork (Thomas Lennon [I Love You, Man] as an adult). Still, all that really matters here is not that the script, by Jason Filardi (Bringing Down the House), is easy and obvious, or that Burr Steers’ direction is, thankfully, not dedicated to brutalizing his protagonist the way that it was in his previous flick, 2002’s Igby Goes Down. It’s that Efron dominates the screen with his charm and his effortless comic timing, and makes you long to see what he will do when he gets a chance at an actual grownup role.
Real Movie News
"I wish I was seventeen again"
With his divorce hearing approaching and his children wanting nothing to do with, Mike O'Donnell (Perry) really wishes that his life had turned out differently. Back in 1989, he was the most popular jock in High School, captain of the basketball team and with a scholarship waiting for him after the big game but when his girlfriend tells him the biggest news of his life, he always thought that his life should have been so much better. When he returns to his old high school to pick up his children Alex (Knight) and Maggie (Trachtenberg), he sees his old basketball team photo and wishes he had his time over again. After a few strange events happen on his way back to his best friend Ned's (Lennon) house, he looks in the mirror to see his seventeen year-old (Efron) but can he cope with been a teenager again?
Hollywood seems to be obsessed with showing you that even if you had the chance to change your life you would be better off with the one you have but can Zac Efron make you wish you were seventeen again?
In most people's lives you can pin point a time when if you made a different decision, chose to go one way instead of another, your life would have been so much different. The premise of making a wish that you could be younger or older and then waking up to discover that you have become a younger or older version of yourself but then going on to learn a life lesson has been a Hollywood stalwart plot for many a decade. Films like 'Vice Versa', '13 Going on 30', 'Freaky Friday', 'Like Father, Like Son' and probably most famously 'Big' have all played with this premise, with mixed success but all of them have the same conclusion, you should be happy with what you have. The latest film to play with this premise is '17 Again' and it sticks to the same principles but has some fun along the way. When Mike O'Donnell was seventeen he had the world at his feet. The most popular guy in school, the captain and star of the basketball team, the head cheerleader as his girlfriend and a college scholarship waiting for him after he wins the championship for Hayden High, everything changes when Scarlet tells him that she is pregnant. He decides to do the right thing, giving up his dream to become a husband, a father and the provider for his family. Fifteen years later, Mike is riddled with regret, passed over for promotion again at work and on the verge of getting a divorce, he returns to his old high school to pick up his kids. Seeing his old basketball team photograph from 1989, he wishes that he could be seventeen again and when the Janitor asks him if he really means that, he says his life could have been so different. After a disastrous evening out with his children and discovering that his soon-to-be ex wife is about to start dating, Mike drives home in the rain, only to see the Janitor he spoke to earlier standing on a bridge looking like he is going to jump. Trying to stop him he falls into a water vortex but when he arrives back at his best friend Ned's house, sopping wet and covered in mud, he looks in the mirror to find his seventeen year-old self looking back at him. Yes, the premise is the same as ever and it sets up the chance for Mike to have another crack at making into basketball but he has another lesson to learn of course but the journey is still a fun one.
When casting the younger and older versions of Mike O'Donnell, the casting director must have been drinking if he or she thought that someone who looks like Zac Efron would grow up to look like Matthew Perry. With this movie, the 'High School Musical' superstar gets the chance to show that he can do more than just sing and dance and shows that the cries from Hollywood that Zac Efron is going to be a huge star are not unfounded. He certainly has a screen presence, showing this is spades during the confrontation scene with the school bully and he has the looks that all teenage girls dream about. Matthew Perry's role is more of a cameo but he is still trying to get out of the shadow of 'Chandler Bing'. The rest of the supporting cast are good however. Leslie Mann continues to be the actress people can count on to play the comedic wife that you can't help but adore. Michelle Trachtenberg moves on from her 'Buffy' days but she is still playing a teenager even though she is in her twenties. Sterling Knight is good as Mike's picked on son Alex. It is Thomas Lennon who steals show however as Mike's super geek but extremely rich best friend who is pursuing Principal Jane Masterson, played by Melora Hardin. He provides most of the comedy in the film and makes '17 Again' all the more watchable.
'17 Again' might not be the most original movie to come out of Hollywood but it is a fun one. The film gives Zac Efron the chance to shine and show why he might just be the next big thing but with good support, especially from Thomas Lennon, and some good laughs a long the way, this won't be such a chore to watch for all of those non-'High School Musical' fans who are bound to be dragged to see this.
Manny the Movie Guy
Watching “17 Again” is similar to eating comfort food. You know it has absolutely zero nutritional value but you like it anyway. It helps when the twinkie in the middle is Zac Efron. “17 Again” celebrates the actor’s coming of age from a singing and dancing matinee idol to a full-blown movie star.
Efron leaves the “High School Musical” franchise just to return to high school in “17 Again.” A fun movie that unabashedly borrowed plot points from films such as “Big,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Back to the Future.”
You know the familiar premise by now, an unsuccessful man wishes he is young again so he can correct his mistakes. A magical character grants his wish, and everyone lives happily ever after.
In “17 Again,” the man on the brink of depression is Mike O’Donnell (played as an adult by Matthew Perry), a husband and father who has just been dumped by his entire family. He’s in the middle of a divorce from his wife Scarlet (the talented Leslie Mann), his kids think he’s a loser, and he has been passed over for a promotion at work.
When picking up his kids one day, Mike goes back to his old high school and reflects on his glory days. We learn that back then, Mike was a jock with an exciting college scholarship, and dating the most beautiful girl in school.
So Mike wishes he’s 17 again, and yes, there’s a magical character who happens to be listening nearby. This time, he’s in the form of a school janitor. That evening, Mike sees the janitor on the verge of jumping into the river.
He tries to save the poor maintenance worker to no avail. Mike goes home, all wet and muddied from jumping into the river and looks at himself in the mirror. To his surprise, he’s 17 again, and looks a lot like Zac Efron!
I knew what to expect coming into this film. But I had a hard time getting into the atmosphere of the movie. Perhaps it was all too familiar, that I refuse to let it all soak in. But as soon as Perry becomes Efron, the magic begins.
Big credit goes to the supporting actors especially Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911”) who plays Mike’s best friend, the nerd-turned-techno-billionaire Ned. Lennon and Efron spend most of the film together, so the movie depends on their on-screen chemistry.
Lennon is given enough chances to shine in the film. Some of his memorable moments are his courtship of Mike’s high school principal (J.R.R. Tolkien’s elvish lingo plays a big part in this subplot) and Ned’s lightsaber duel with Mike. Wait until you see Ned’s bed, and his house for that matter.
Another supporting character I admire is Mann. Her performance as Mike’s long-neglected wife is the heart of the film. And yes, there’s even a creepy but sweet cougar moment, when Efron kisses Mann.
The one big letdown of the film is the director, Burr Steers. I expected more from the guy who gave us the incredibly smart 2002 film “Igby Goes Down.” But Steers is forgiven for his casting choices.
I’ve never been a big fan of Efron. Besides his memorable turn in “Hairspray,” the whole “High School Musical” hoopla escapes me. So I was genuinely surprised to see Efron can actually act! He can go from comedy to drama without missing a beat! Witness his scene in the school cafeteria where he humiliates a bully just by using mere words.
So I’m recommending “17 Again” for its sweet-natured, albeit sugar-coated premise. There’s nothing wrong in feeling young again even just for a couple of hours.
And for that, “17 Again” gets 2.5 kisses, think young and beautiful kisses
I’M NOT going to deny it: of course 17 Again (Warner Bros.) is Zac Efron porn. As the younger version of Michael O’Donnell, a character he plays with a mismatched Matthew Perry, he opens the movie shirtless, shiny with sweat, shooting baskets in a high-school auditorium. He’s barely pulled on his clothes when throngs of smiling students file into the bleachers and a gaggle of cheerleaders surrounds him, begging to follow his mad choreography skills. (He leads enthusiastically.) It has all the makings of High School Musical 4: Troy’s Back to Tell You It’s All a Lie until weird, awkward, unexpectedly hilarious things start happening, and 17 Again turns out to be something else entirely.
Everything about this movie is lame and absurd; if those things bother you, there’s no reason to even keep reading. But calling 17 Again lame is kind of like calling Knocked Up “gross”—um, kind of the point. The blessing of its hokum premise—an about-to-divorced husband and less-than-successful father (Perry) follows a spirit guide into a gushing vortex and comes out as his high-school self (Efron)—is a kind of creepy humor that provides endless squirm comedy. Think of it as Judd Apatow for sweet preteens: we endure prolonged jokes about a 17-year-old dancing with his best friend’s mom (actually his wife) and watching his daughter, now one of his classmates, make out grossly and repeatedly with the school’s bad-boy loser. It’s all completely wrong, and yet completely Disney-channel wholesome. (Parents will especially like when the young Michael delivers an impassioned panegyric to love and marriage as condoms circulate around a sex-ed classroom.)
Okay, so this still doesn’t sound very appealing. Maybe it’s the slew of winning performances ranging from the cute and effective (Leslie Mann as Scarlett O’Donell) to the uncomfortably oddball (the ever-awkward Thomas Lennon as Ned Gold, the adult Michael’s nerdy roommate), but somehow this movie transcends its girl-targeted sappiness and parent-targeted positivity. Efron brings it as hard as he ever has, showing some attitude (a smarty-pants, three-point tell-off of the cafeteria bully) and some believable tears (an improvised letter to his estranged wife in the courtroom). But don’t listen to me; maybe I just like an inane, nice little movie after a stressful day of work, or a funny squirm comedy after a brutal disaster like Observe and Report. Maybe you will, too.
Associated Press: Roger Moore
As a remake of "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Back to the Future," the movies it borrows from most heavily, the relive-your-senior-year comedy "17 Again" falls a little short of the mark. But as a funny, sweet and smart star vehicle tailored for Zac "High School Musical" Efron, it's right on the money.
A teen-friendly comedy built on the hazards of unsafe high school sex, the life you live wondering "What could I have become?" had contraception or the A-word been an option at 17? Pretty edgy fare for a guy known for his bangs, his dance moves and his dubbed singing voice.
Efron ably struts his stuff as Mike, the star basketball player, King of Hayden High, who got his girlfriend pregnant and grew up into a bitter, resentful adult (Matthew Perry). Adult Mike is divorcing the mother of his children (Leslie Mann), hasn't connected with those kids in years and needs reminding why he made the choices he made, way back when.
A janitor-guardian angel (Brian Doyle-Murray) hurls him back into his 17-year-old self, into high school with his own kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight). That's where the whiny Mike faces his responsibilities ? the daughter making poor choices, the secretly bullied son who needs a male role model.
The director of "Igby Goes Down" (Burr Steers) gives this just enough edge. Sure, there's the nerdy sidekick who grew up to be a rich nerdy sidekick (Thomas Lennon, hilarious in every scene he's in), the guy who decodes this as "a classic (sci-fi) transformation story."
"Are you now or have you ever been a Norse God, a vampire or a time-traveling cyborg?"
We get the confront-the-bully bit and obligatory teen party. But there's a whole daughter-might-be-hot-for-teen-dad "Back to the Future" riff and the fact that the adult wife is both drawn to and repulsed by her son's new "friend," the kid who looked "just like my husband" back in the day.
Efron sells the kid-playing-adult values stuff amusingly, turning sex-ed class (with teacher Margaret Cho) into an abstinence lecture aimed at his daughter-classmate.
But it's the sweet touch that works, the married couple trying, for once, "not to hold each other back," the kids who need a peer who knows the psychology of the creep who is dating the daughter and picking on the son.
The movie doesn't work out how 1989 teens could have reproduced a daughter who is still only 16 today. But "17 Again" is a comically responsible way for Efron to leave his teen roles behind and make his teen audience think about the adult decisions they now face.
Jo Reviews (Partial, full later)
To my amazement “17 Again” is the surprise film of 2009. Starring the adorable Zac Efron as the high school stud Mike O’Donnell who grows up and finds himself miserable with life. The elder Mike O’Donnell is portrayed by the natural comedic Matthew Perry who is married to his high school sweetheart Scarlett (Leslie Mann). When he finds his life is falling apart around him Mike takes an age defying reversal back to when he was 17 to repeat his past. “17 Again” is a tale of reliving life and remembering what is most important. Zac Efron was definitely the star of this film. Efron made himself very captivating to the audience and captured perfectly the 40 year old man stuck in the 17 year old body. The cast was well selected and offered wonderful performances. “17 Again” was a film most teenage girls will swoon over, and I guess I found myself being 17 Again in doing so too.
Zac attack: Efron's '17 Again' gets a flunking grade
The way most people see it - and we're not talking about prom kings or hot cheerleaders - revisiting high school would be cruel and unusual torture.
Not for Zac Efron.
"If that boy were an apple, he'd be delicious," purrs one high school hottie eyeing Efron's assets in the new comedy, "17 Again."
The perfect hair. The big, twinkly eyes. The dance moves. (Even here the "High School Musical" star can't resist.)
Maybe if Efron were starring in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" his Rob Lowe prettiness, not to mention those cheekbones you could slice tomatoes on, wouldn't get in the way. But here, in a movie meant to move the 21-year-old away from his teen-screeching "HSM" fame, it's all so predictable.
With elements shamelessly borrowed from at least 12 other movies, among them "Big," "Freaky Friday" and "It's a Wonderful Life," "17 Again's" plot is on automatic pilot.
In fact, this ode to Efron's talents is about as close to original as Lindsay Lohan is to playing Stevie Nicks in her life story. To quote the Fleetwood Mac singer: "Over my dead body!"
Eighties basketball star Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) laments the life he would have had if he hadn't given up his dream of college stardom to marry his pregnant girlfriend.
Twenty years later, miserable Mike is in a job he hates, surrounded by 20-something bimbos who whiz past him with undeserved promotions. His teenage kids (Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight) are strangers to him. And his wife, Scarlett (Leslie Mann), wants a divorce.
Living with his best bud Ned -- a "Lord of the Rings" freak/former teen geek who is now a high-tech millionaire - Mike's as low as he can go.
Compelled to revisit his old school, the defeated man stares into a gleaming trophy case. There he finds a team photo taken when the world, and every college basketball recruiter in it, was at his feet.
Forget the Sleep-Eze. The rest of this trainwreck will do the job.
"Wouldn't you like to go back and do it all again?" A phantom janitor suddenly appears to pose that question. "I wish," Mike sighs.
Just like "It's a Wonderful Life," where the angel Clarence lures Jimmy Stewart off a bridge and into an alternate world where he was never born, Mike gets his wish.
Falling into a preposterous time warp/whirl pool (don't ask), this magically reborn 17-year-old bypasses 1989 - the year when all his troubles started - and emerges in 2009. But hey, Efron's hairdo wasn't hip in 1989 so it all makes sense.
Suddenly the hot new kid at school is telling his daughter's sex class that abstinence is great, praying that it'll help end her relationship with her bully of a boyfriend.
Mike helps his meek son get on the basketball team and land the girl of his dreams.
And while he's busy rebuffing girls' advances, including those from his unsuspecting daughter (creepy), this man on a mission tries to stop his wife from divorcing him and win back his basketball career.
"17 Again" is exactly what you'd expect and nothing more. But it doesn't leave you feeling utterly indifferent.
This is a movie about second chances. Nowhere is that more evident than in Perry's performance.
The "Friends" star is on screen for 15 minutes max. But in that time Perry illustrates how easy it is for anyone to veer so off track from their dreams that they don't even know who they are anymore.
If not a second chance, "17 Again" launches a second act in Efron's career.
With a personal fortune of US$10 million, Efron's a heartthrob for now. But this self-professed "Renaissance man" says he's ready for new challenges.
If "17 Again" helps transition Efron into Oscar-worthy dramas and Shakespearean roles more power to him. But methinks not.
Directed by Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down") and written by Jason Filardi ("Bringing Down the House") "17 Again's" real charm comes from second banana Ned ("I Love You, Man's" Thomas Lennon).
His wry attempts to win Principal Masterson (Melora Hardin), including wooing her in fluent Elvish - the language of the elves in "Lord of the Rings," steal this flick right from under Efron's dancing feet.
"17 Again" scores a C+ for Perry for getting back in the game. The D grade on Efron's performance leaves him back in high school.
At the Movies with Dan Hudak
The teenage girls who flock to “17 Again” will be thrilled to see Zac Efron unnecessarily shirtless in the opening scene. And that’s merely the beginning. “17 Again” flaunts Efron’s cuteness more than “Twilight” glamorized Robert Pattinson’s pasty appeal, which is no small feat. But with so much preening for the camera it’d be easy to overlook Efron’s comic timing and congenial personality, both of which are essential to the movie working as well as it does.
Efron is Mike O’Donnell, a high school basketball star who’s about to be offered a college scholarship. Then it happens: His girlfriend Scarlet (Allison Miller) tells him she’s pregnant, and he chooses to skip college, marry the girl, raise kids, etc.
Eighteen years later, Mike (now played by Matthew Perry) is miserable. Scarlet (Leslie Mann) is now his wife, and she hates him. The kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight) ignore him and he doesn’t get the promotion he deserves at work. So Mike understandably wants a do-over with his life, and in a Hollywood movie, he can get one.
After a mystical janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) grants his wish, Mike is now 17 again, but he doesn’t travel back in time to relive high school. He’s 17 in the present, which means the young-again Mike has to enroll in high school to help his kids, and realize the error of his ways with Scarlet, who wants a divorce.
The premise is a clever spin on “Big,” “13 Going on 30” and other movies of that ilk, and the most important thing these movies have in common is a very charming lead character. If we don’t find it cute that young Mike thinks he should dress like K-Fed, or that he tries to give “fatherly” advice to horny teenage girls who hit on him, then the entire appeal of the movie is lost. Fortunately, Efron has charisma to spare, and he even makes it believable that young Mike could woo the older Scarlet, even if she’s not interested.
Most of the funny moments in director Burr Steers’ film come courtesy of Mike’s friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), an uber-dork millionaire who acts as young Mike’s father and repeatedly hits on the school principal (Melora Hardin). Lennon’s dry, monotone sarcasm snaps one one-liner after another, and Efron is gracious enough to let him steal the show in most of their scenes together.
“17 Again” gets off to a clunky start, and the story is never original or believable, but that misses the point. This is a cute charmer that leaves you with that “feel-good” feeling that those who pay to see this movie are expecting.
Did you know? Although they have no scenes together, Efron and Perry collaborated on playing Mike. “A lot of the rehearsal process was me reading some of his lines and him reading some of my lines and listening to the way we said certain things,” Perry said. “He was also eager to emulate some of my mannerisms, like he noticed I have a tendency to put my hands in my pockets. So he was always watching and observing.”
Is it worth $10.00 ? Yes !
New Zealand Herald blog
Verdict: Successful bid to increase Zac Efron's fanbase to the 12-plus female demographic.
The body swap movie has been done almost enough times to qualify as a genre - think Big, Freaky Friday or 13 Going on 30, but that doesn't scare Disney's golden boy Zac Efron whose charming performance in this teen comedy helps you get over the deja vu.
Seventeen Again kicks off in 1989, when Mike O'Donnell (Efron) decides to sacrifice his shot at a college scholarship to be with his (ohmigod!) pregnant girlfriend Scarlet.
Skipping forward 20 years, life hasn't quite turned out how Mike (now played by Matthew Perry) hoped it would when he was a basketball star at high school. In summary, he's homeless, jobless, has two teenage kids who think he's a loser, and is in the midst of a divorce.
Needless to say, Mike is nostalgic for the old days, and is miraculously given a chance to re-live his high school years when he wakes up one morning as a 17-year-old.
It's not worth pondering how this happened, especially because it includes a "spiritual guide" and "transformation magic" ... but this is where the fun begins.
With help from his best friend, high school geek turned software millionaire Ned (Thomas Lennon), Mike enrols in his old high school
and, once he's adjusted to being a teenager in today's world and at school with his kids, he assumes the role of basketball playing, morally upright, popular good guy.
Efron is in familiar territory, in a role similar to his basketball-playing Troy Bolton in the High School Musical series. But playing a middle-aged man in the body of a 17-year-old he gets to drop the cheesy teenage routine and to show his comedic skills. While Efron's mature performance ties the film together, Lennon's oddball sci-fi nerd steals scenes and provides most of the laughs.
Seventeen Again doesn't offer anything new to the formula - it feels like something dragged from the 80s into the noughties, with its jocks and geeks high school stereotypes. That said, it's a light and tolerable piece of fun that will appeal to suckers for romantic comedy, almost as much as it will to Efron's teen fanbase.
Hollywood and Fine
Allow me a moment to sing the praises of Zac Efron.
He’s good-looking, multitalented, charming and funny, even though he’s something of a punchline to uncomprehending adults, who only know him through his teen-dream status from the “High School Musical” franchise.
But as he showed in “Hairspray” and in the still-unreleased “Me and Orson Welles,” Efron has range as an actor and an undeniable charisma that could make him a true star, once he starts making adult choices in material.
Unfortunately, he’s currently saddled with “17 Again,” a stinker of a comedy so lifeless it makes Cher’s plasticine puss look animated.
God knows the body-switch formula is tried and true. It worked for Jodie Foster and Lindsay Lohan in their respective “Freaky Friday” outings, for George Burns in “18 Again,” for Dudley Moore in “Like Father, Like Son” and for Tom Hanks in “Big.” Even the weakest vehicle, it seems, can squeeze laughs from this concept.
Writer Jason Filardi apparently wouldn’t know a joke if it jumped up and bit him in the behind. Laughs? This movie makes you want to shed tears at how often Filardi squanders the opportunity for even the most rudimentary comedic payoff. I won’t go so far as to call Filardi mentally impaired – but humor-impaired certainly fits the bill.
Efron plays Mike O’Donnell who, in 1989, is a high school basketball star with college scouts ready to hand him a scholarship, if he can show them the goods in his final game. Just as the contest is to start, Mike’s girlfriend shows up to tell him she’s pregnant. So Mike walks off the court right after the opening tip-off, to proclaim his love and, presumably, put his athletic career behind him forever.
Cut to 20 years later. Mike, now played by a sour-puss Matthew Perry, has two teen-age kids and is on the verge of a divorce.
(A bit of a mathematical inconsistency: Mike gives up college to get married and support a family, based on a pregnancy that begins in his senior year of high school. Twenty years later, the adult Mike’s oldest daughter, played by Michelle Trachtenberg, is only a high-school senior, which would also make her 17 – 18 tops. Unless she’s been held back two or three times? Or was this the world’s longest pregnancy?)
Adult Mike hates his life and wishes he had that crucial day to do over. So in the kind of supernatural moment these movies hinge on, he gets his wish and is transformed back into Zac Efron.
The new/old Mike thinks this is his chance to start his life over. Instead, it’s an opportunity to connect with the teen offspring he apparently has neglected until now. He helps them figure out their lives – and gets a chance to start over with his wife (Leslie Mann).
And it’s all guaranteed 100% laugh-free.
Not that there aren’t other talented people in the cast. Mann, Thomas Lennon, Melora Hardin – these actors aren’t chopped liver. Neither is Perry, for that matter – but they’re all treated like so many cogs in director Burr Steers’ joyless machine of a film.
Steers directed the unjustly overlooked “Igby Goes Down” a few years ago. On the other hand, he wrote the witless “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” This film makes clear which of those two projects is a true reflection of his talent and taste.
According to the Internet Movie Database, writer Filardi (who also wrote the unfunny Steve Martin-Queen Latifah vehicle, “Bringing Down the House”) is at work on a remake of “Topper.” Does it even stand a ghost of a chance? Not if this film is an indication.
This much is for sure about the makers of the new Zac Efron picture 17 Again: They know their audience. Scientifically engineered for maximum shriek-and-squeal value among Efron’s legion of distaff tween fans (and no small number of lonelyheart cougars and gay men), the movie opens on His Zackness’ sweaty, shirtless torso glistening under the lights of a high school gymnasium, as his character, 17-year-old basketball phenom Mike O’Donnell, practices his jump shot before a big game. This is quickly followed by a scene of Efron/O’Donnell busting an impromptu move with the cheerleading squad, shaking his metrosexual bootie for all it’s worth—which, judging by the combined grosses of Hairspray and the High School Musical franchise, is considerable.
The year is 1989, and O’Donnell seems to be living a gilded existence, with college scouts on his back and the prettiest girl in school on his arm—until, moments before the game, fair Scarlet tells him she’s pregnant with their baby, causing Mike to throw up a brick on the court and squander his shot at college hoops. The more crushing blow, however, may be the one that this Warner Bros. movie deals to the Disney executives who have so carefully sculpted Efron into an icon of chaste, non-threatening masculinity on par with the brothers Jonas. Evidently, all the pre-release publicity positioning 17 Again as Efron’s first “grown-up” movie was about one thing: He has finally been allowed to grow a phallus.
This, alas, is the only novel or transgressive touch to be found in 17 Again, a reverse-engineered Big in which O’Donnell (played as an adult by erstwhile Friend Matthew Perry) gets a chance to revisit his adolescent glory days in his glorious, adolescent body. The point, of course, is that Mike has been psychologically stuck in high school mode for the last 20 years anyway—an unhung hammock and a half-built barbecue pit are among the Freudian evidence of a chronic inability to make good on his ambitions. When we first meet grown-up Mike, he’s at the brink of divorce from the adult Scarlet (Leslie Mann) and estranged from his two moody teenagers (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight). Then fate intervenes in the form of a fairy godjanitor (Brian Doyle-Murray), who sprinkles a little hocus pocus on a despondent Mike, bringing the movie’s title to fruition and restoring Efron to the fore.
Mike doesn’t literally travel back in time like the title character in Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married, thereby sparing screenwriter Jason Filardi and director Burr Steers from having to navigate any of the emotional landmines that might come with being young again (like re-living doomed relationships and re-encountering dead friends and relatives). Nor does Mike have to labor much to convince lifelong pal Ned (Thomas Lennon) of his predicament, since Ned—a millionaire software developer/sci-fi geek living in his own state of arrested development—isn’t the sort to question a sudden episode of bodily transmutation. So with Ned posing as his father, Mike enrolls at the local high school, where he sets about righting the wrongs of his past, while trying to deter his own children from following in his footsteps.
This isn’t the first time that Steers has plumbed the depths of postpubescent awkwardness on screen. But whereas his 2002 debut feature, the insipid Catcher in the Rye knockoff Igby Goes Down, aimed for art-house credibility, 17 Again finds Steers embracing his inner sitcom director; the garishly lit, poorly framed images seem to have been enlarged against their will to fill the cinema screen, while Rolfe Kent’s incessantly antic, brassy score is the musical equivalent of a laugh track. The aesthetic crassness is a natural fit for Filardi’s screenplay, which fastens together scraps of many a duly forgotten 1980s body-switching comedy (Like Father, Like Son, anyone?) with reams of below-grade-level dialogue. The high school itself is more Saved by the Bell than John Hughes, with crowds of badly directed, Sunday-supplement extras flaunting cell phones as if they were extraterrestrial communicators, and a tattooed, beady-eyed, alpha-male bully who looks more like a Rikers Island lifer than a 12th-grade jock.
All this is but the window dressing, however, for 17 Again’s squirm-inducing coup de grace—the courtship of the thirtysomething Scarlet by the teenaged Mike, the smarminess of which is less about the intimations of statutory rape than the humiliating way Mann (who doesn’t realize that the boy is really her soon-to-be ex) is made to prowl around Efron as though he were a fresh piece of loin. Those scenes are in line with the movie’s generally hateful attitude toward women young and old—something one wonders if the movie’s target viewers will be ruffled by or blithely ignore—who are uniformly portrayed as ball-busting shrews, frigid ice queens, or hot-to-trot vixens. In one inevitable scene, Mike is nearly seduced by his own daughter. In another, three teen vamps proposition him by promising that he doesn’t even have to remember their names.
Efron is, to put it mildly, the least of the movie’s problems. Nuance may not be his strong suit, and he never gives himself over to the part physically, the way Jamie Lee Curtis did as the girl-woman of Freaky Friday, but he plays most of the big moments well enough (verbally cutting down a bully in the cafeteria, preaching abstinence in a sex-ed class), and seems altogether more at ease than he does doing 1930s dress-up in Richard Linklater’s forthcoming Me and Orson Welles. But if this is one small step for the actor toward becoming a leading man, it is, for Hollywood movies, one more giant leap into infantilism.
With his breakout role in the charming and very funny new comedy "17 Again," teen idol Zac Efron is basically sending a not-so-subtle message to anyone in Hollywood who will listen: bye-bye "High School Musical," hello movie career.
Otherwise, "17 Again" could best be described as a hodge-podge of past "what if" films, like "Big," "13 Going on 30," the similarly-titled "18 Again" and both versions of "Freaky Friday." But it's still a good movie, thanks to a charming screenplay by Jason Filardi ("Bringing Down the House"), vibrant direction from Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down") and a star-making performance by Efron.
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And Efron handles his transition the right way, since he's not alienating his young fan base. If anything, he's bringing them along for the ride, since his character looks so much like Troy Bolton from "High School Musical" (fishbowl haircut, basketball uniform). But when it comes to proving that he can make the grade as a leading man in a romantic comedy, he passes with flying colors.
Buying into former "Friends" star Matthew Perry as an older version of Efron's character is another story, since there's no way Efron would grow up to look like Perry (much less act like him). But the whole scenario requires taking a leap of faith, which makes it easier to overlook the awkward casting, the clichs and some of the film's more contrived moments.
Perry plays Mike O'Donnell, a miserable 37-year-old caught in the throes of a mid-life crisis. His estranged wife ( Leslie Mann ) wants a divorce, his kids ( Michelle Trachtenberg , Sterling Knight) won't give him the time of day and he was passed over for a promotion at work. It was a different story 20 years ago, when he was the super-popular star of his high school basketball team and he dated the prettiest girl in the school.
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When Mike longs for the glory days, he's magically transformed into the body of his 17-year-old self. But it's still 2009, so he still has to contend with his bitter wife and bratty kids. With the help of his nerdy best friend (Thomas Lennon), Mike uses his thirty-something sensibilities to win back the love of his family and his passion for life - the life that he took for granted all those years ago.
Zac Efron could not have asked for a better project to appeal to his younger fans while embracing a more grown up role. Yes, he's still playing a teenager, but one with an old soul, and he mines the comic opportunities for all they're worth. Whether he's flirting with his wife (who's now old enough to be his mother), teaching his awkward son how to be cool or resisting the advances of his rebellious daughter, Efron deftly handles everything that comes his way.
Backing him up is scene-stealer Thomas Lennon ("I Love You, Man"), who poses as his father, lusts after the very attractive high school principal and sleeps in a bed shaped like the Landspeeder from "Star Wars." The entire cast is game, but it's Efron's show, and if he's sending a message that he's ready to be a movie star, then consider that message received - loud and clear.
Verdict: SEE IT!
You might wonder why it was necessary to add 17 Again to Hollywood’s long list of “body swap” comedies over the last 25 years, but I have a theory about such genre fare. At some point in the rise of every young would-be star, the movie industry needs to figure out if they’ve really got what it takes. Fish-out-of-water premises — body swapping, time travel, cross-dressing, etc. — might be a dime a dozen, but when you plug in the hot up-and-comer du jour, it’s like the cinematic equivalent of a duplicate bridge tournament. When everyone’s playing basically the same cards, you can figure out who’sreally got game.
The results over the years have been decidedly mixed. Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future), Tom Hanks (Big) and Lindsay Lohan (the 2003 Freaky Friday remake) are among those who scored hits. On the other hand, Charlie Schlatter cavorted as a teen George Burns in 1988’s 18 Again! and basically disappeared into workmanlike obscurity. Now it’s High School Musical star Zac Efron’s turn to attempt name-above-the-title status, and 17 Again sort of works.
This 30th-verse-same-as-the-first variation opens in 1989, where high-school basketball stud Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) is looking at a college scholarship — except that he opts to do “the right thing” and marry his girlfriend Scarlett (Allison Miller) when she gets pregnant. Twenty years later, Mike (Matthew Perry) is a defeated pharmaceutical salesman, and Scarlett (Leslie Mann) is tired of feeling like the scapegoat for his failings. Facing divorce and unemployment, Mike encounters a mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle Murray) and suddenly finds himself transformed back to his 17-year-old self. It’s a chance to turn back the clock and start his life over again — or maybe it’s a chance to help his kids, Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight), on their own proper path.
Screenwriter Jason Filardi (Bringing Down the House) and director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) fill the story with all the requisite elements. There’s the one person who knows the truth — in this case, Mike’s nerd-turned-software-millionaire best friend Ned (Reno 911!’s Thomas Lennon) — to act as our protagonist’s confidant. There’s a jerk adversary — bullying jock Stan (Hunter Parrish) — to provide external conflict. And there are plenty of moments for awkward reaction takes so that we can discover if the star is more than a pretty face.
Most of these elements, it turns out, are perfunctory. Stan proves to be a pretty tepid adversary, vanishing from the story before he can really do anything interesting. Steers wastes the presence of the talented Mann, plugging her into a bland role and whiffing on how to frame her big moments. If they wanted a bland backdrop for Efron, the filmmakers mostly succeeded.
What they didn’t count on is Lennon. He’s hilarious as a one-time loser who has succeeded to the point where he can fill his house with nerdy memorabilia like life-sized Darth Vaders and a Land Speeder for a bed, but still has no idea how to get a date. A subplot involving Ned’s flailing attempts to woo the high-school principal (The Office’s Melora Hardin) serve up nearly all of the film’s biggest laughs, and Lennon’s deadpan delivery steals absolutely every scene he’s in. At a certain point, it begins to seem like a much better movie would have abandoned Efron’s character entirely.
And that’s a shame, because the guy deserves better. Efron’s got more than a little bit of charm beyond his dreamboat looks, and he occasionally nails Perry’s mannerisms. But the fact remains that it’s generally much harder to make the teen-playing-grownup side of this concept work than the reverse — where Hanks, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30), among others, delivered charming performances. You need a bit of soul beyond your years to pull off the weary wisdom of a guy flipped from midlife crisis to big man on campus. When Efron attempts a tearful monologue expressing Mike’s love for his wife, he just seems like a kid play-acting those emotions.
So maybe 17 Again doesn’t serve its function if its limited appeal comes in spite of Efron’s weaknesses rather than because of his strengths. Maybe they’ll give him another chance with another generic premise — in which case, expect to see him in drag in 2010. Grade: C
Film Journal International
Zac Efron is charming, Sterling Knight is a great young find, and second-chance comedies of grownups in teen bodies are timeless, so to speak. So why is this movie so creepy and pervy-seeming?
Somehow, in Back to the Future, when Marty McFly's teenage mother in the 1950s was romantically attracted to what was, unbeknownst to her, her own time-traveling son, Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox and that "Happy Days" era's ostensible innocence made the situation broad and farcical enough that it played as simply comic misunderstanding.
But when Michelle Trachtenberg's character gets hot for the hard-bodied teen (Zac Efron) whom she doesn't know is really her magically reverted dad, it's just creepy—especially when the two are in a bedroom together and she's on all fours, prowling animal-like, thinking he wants to play a sex game. As if that weren't enough, teen dad shares a sexy dance with his new friend's mom—his unknowing, estranged wife (Leslie Mann)—and the cougar quotient with a minor is pretty discomfiting. I suppose if I were a 17-year-old boy watching this, I'd be all, "Yeah! MILF! Woo!" But I'm not.
I give the squirm-inducing and generally unfunny 17 Again credit for at least being a trailblazer. We've had lots of comedies where a parent (or in one case, granddad) switches body with his or her child (or grandson): Vice Versa (1947 and 1988), Freaky Friday (1976 and 2003), Like Father, Like Son (1987) and 18 Again! (1988), which all hearken back to the pseudonymous F. Antsey's original humor novel Vice Versa (1882). We've also had at least two movies, Big (1988) and 13 Going on 30 (2004), where kids magically become adults, either in their present day (the former) or their future (the latter). 17 Again seems to break ground as Big in reverse—a grownup, solo, reverts to teenhood in the present day.
He does this from the doughy form of Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry), whom we're to believe was a high-school basketball star poised to get a full ride at Syracuse. Once we accept that, then it's a snap to accept a magical janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) who makes Mike 17 again (Efron). In another bit of make-believe, the unemployed Mike happens to have a super-rich friend, Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon), who can buy Mike (now "Mark," Ned's hitherto unknown "bastard son from Connecticut") all the cool accoutrements for Hayden High School, including a souped-up sports car.
Mark believes his mission is to help his kids—daughter Maggie (Trachtenberg), who's fallen for a bully (Hunter Parrish of Showtime's "Weeds"), and picked-upon son Alex (Sterling Knight, a relative newcomer who's joined the Disney Channel stable and whose personable comic timing, befuddled quick-wittedness and sheer courage for a fire stunt are all impressive). Ned, meantime, is essentially stalking the miniskirted school principal (Melora Hardin), who finally agrees to a date in exchange for a bribe (laptops for all students—oddly, since in this upscale school the students would certainly already own laptops). This does lead, however, to the movie's highlight—an unexpectedly funny scene at a restaurant.
Problematically, the pivotal choice made by the original, 1989 Mike seems false: Take a full scholarship, or quit school to be with your newly pregnant girlfriend. It's possible to do both, especially with family help—and, really, is it soooo blasphemous that the film can't even utter the suggestion of a very common, perfectly legal medical procedure called an abortion? That seems a lot less creepy than incest jokes and adult women with minors.
Channel News Asia
The best piece of advice I have for you if you’re intending to make a trip to the cinema to catch Zac Efron’s rock-hard abs in his first non-musical film: Be sure you catch a screening when school is in session, lest you want to be trampled upon by screaming teenage girls. Consider yourself warned.
17 Again, a retread of the good ol’ Hollywood age-swap comedy, is everything you expect it to be. Is the story original? No. Is it a socio-economic study on today’s evils? Erm, not quite. Is it going to entertain its specific demographic it aims to please? You betcha.
Efron plays Mike O’Donnell, a hunky high school basketball star who chucks away college basketball glory for the girl who is pregnant with his child.
Twenty years later, Mike is Matthew “Could I be any more middle-aged?” Perry, on the brink of divorce and down and out with life. A stranger offers him a life do-over and, presto, he’s back to being Efron in a hot bod.
Even if you’re immune to Efron’s Valley Boy looks and have pegged him as a pretty-boy one trick pony... you’ll be surprised. The teen idol actually carries the film, just the right side of charming, as he conveys a protagonist trying to unite past and present selves.
The rest of the cast (an illuminating Leslie Mann and the suitable angsty Michelle Trachtenberg) play second fiddle to Efron, but they all do more than their fair share to make this a fun, fluffy ride.
It ain’t Big, or even Freaky Friday, but it’s funny enough to keep you in the cinema. Just steer clear of the screaming girls.
[note some of this is plagiarized from sfx's review, :/]
"17 Again" owes a lot to movies that came before it, including "Freaky Friday," "Big," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "13 Going On 30," among others. Put it this way: If film execs borrowed ideas from old movies the same way you borrow money from the bank, "17 Again" would be facing foreclosure.
Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is a terminally mopey father of two whose marriage is teetering on divorce. He reminisces endlessly about his high-school days, when he was a star on the basketball team and looked just like "High School Musical" dreamboat Zac Efron.
Faster than you can say "Insert mystical nonsense here," Mike is magically transformed into his glorious 17-year-old self. The twist is that he living in the present day, so he can keep an eye on his adult wife, Scarlet (Leslie Mann), and attend classes with his two teenage kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight), who all think Mike is off on business.
With his best pal (Thomas Lennon) posing as his dad, Mike enrolls in high school. At first, he believes he has been transformed to pursue the college basketball career that he turned his back on. But he quickly realizes that the real reason for his revitalization is to learn more about his family, so he can discover what he is at risk of losing.
Once the movie's setup is in place and Perry's tired middle-age shtick moves off screen, the film comes to life with some inspired bits that flirt with kinkiness. When Mike protects his daughter's virginity, she mistakes his intentions and attempts to seduce him. Teenaged Mike flirts with Scarlet, which creeps out anyone who is nearby: "Do you dance with all your friends' mothers?" his son nervously asks.
Efron is a capable leading man who delivers a punch line like a pro. He scores in such moments as when he lectures his classmates on the virtues of abstinence or tears down the school bully with some cutting comments. The actor is also assured enough that he imbues the movie's climactic speech with a surprising emotional heft. The kid may not be the next Sean Penn, but he is definitely a movie star.
The movie also knows who makes up the Efron audience. In an opening flashback sequence set in 1989, we see Mike dance (sigh!), befriend a nerd (sweet!) and show off his rippling six pack (swoon!).
What we don't see is how rough those intervening years must have been; after all, how does one age from Zac Efron into to Matthew Perry? That concept will scare any kid out of wanting to grow up.