In "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey gets the chance to see what Bedford Falls would be like if he had never been born. His guide is an angel, second-class, named Clarence.
In the comic fantasy "17 Again," Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is given the chance to be a teen again, thanks to a white-haired janitor who magically appears near the trophy case in his old high school.
Relishing a return to his glory days, 37-year-old Mike admits, "Of course I want to live in the past. It was better there." And, oddly, he is not from Pittsburgh.
Through a leap off a bridge, a la "Wonderful Life," and some Hollywood hocus-pocus, Mike is 17 again.
The first time around, in 1989, he was a happy, hotshot basketball star (played by Zac Efron), one game away from a full college scholarship. He abandons that when he learns his girlfriend is pregnant, declaring, "You and me, we're in this together ... The baby's my future."
As were a second child, a dead-end sales job and a marriage that sinks into resentment and disappointment. Mike and his wife, Scarlet (Leslie Mann), are about to divorce as the story opens, and Mike is bunking with Ned (Thomas Lennon), his nerdy high school pal turned billionaire bachelor.
The movie kicks into gear when Mike becomes 17 again, calling himself Mark and pretending to be Ned's son and enrolling at his alma mater. After a bizarre and blessedly brief period taking his fashion cues from Kevin Federline, Mark becomes the Zac all the girls know and swoon over -- dreamy hair, white T-shirt, jeans, leather jacket.
Mark/Mike learns some disturbing facts about his children, now his classmates, and befriends his wife, who is struck by his resemblance to her husband as a teen. "17 Again" gives Mike a second chance at life, but not in the way he imagined, although in one most of the audience could.
In addition to taking a page from the Christmas classic, "17 Again" borrows from "Back to the Future" and all the fantasies, body-swapping movies and comedies about instant adulthood (Tom Hanks in "Big") or giddy return to youth (George Burns in "18 Again").
In scenes involving the 17-year-old and his daughter or wife, the movie wobbles very close to the creepy-icky line. And just to make sure we know they know, characters note how inappropriate that is.
Directed by Burr Steers (the dark coming-of-age comedy "Igby Goes Down") and written by Jason Filardi ("Bringing Down the House"), "17 Again" makes perfect use of Efron's youthful appearance, his physical charms and his underrated acting ability. An emotional, teary-eyed scene proves he's more than a pretty face.
Still, it's only mildly funny and ends abruptly with one important story thread or reveal left hanging. As a devoted fan of "Friends," I was disappointed that Perry was given so little to do but Lennon's Ned and Melora Hardin's school principal nearly steal the picture as a pair of sci-fi geeks.
"17 Again" may not be terribly original, but it will remind tweens that their parents were lovesick or bullied once, too, and as Mike wisely says, "When you're young, everything feels like the end of the world. It's not; it's just the beginning."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, teen reviews
Who better to review "17 Again" than some actual 17-year-old boys? Here are a couple of reviews from Allderdice High School students who attended a sneak preview this week, and you can find them and five other students in a video at post-gazette.com/movies.
'Something for everyone'
During the first five minutes of "17 Again," Zac Efron, playing prospective basketball star Mike O'Donnell, shoots hoops and dances. Where have I seen that before? But aside from that and the high school setting, this movie is a nice departure from "High School Musical" and it shows that Efron has serious leading man potential.
Matthew Perry, as the jaded older Mike, needs to make some sort of a comeback because he's always funny, although basically the only character he can play is Chandler.
Leslie Mann is very endearing as Mike's soon-to-be ex-wife, Sterling Knight is likable as Mike's loser son with tons of potential, and Michelle Trachtenberg is OK but still effective as Mike's lovesick daughter. Thomas Lennon, as Mike's rich yet socially inept friend Ned, steals the show as he attempts to woo a comely principal (Melora Hardin, Jan from the "The Office").
The script is predictable, the ending is obvious, and Perry looks nothing like Efron, but all in all "17 Again" is a sweet and funny showcase for a new group of comedic talents. Kids can go for Efron, teenagers will understand more of the jokes, and parents will have more fun with this than something like "Adventureland."
-- Josh Axelrod, 17, Allderdice High School
'HSM' meets 'Wonderful Life'
I found myself going into the movie not really having great expectations for it because of Zac Efron. It also did not help that the movie started off with a basketball game and a dance scene with him. I thought, "Oh no, here comes 'High School Musical' all over again!"
It did end up surprising me in the end, though. I found myself laughing pretty hard at some of the jokes. The ones with the nerdy best friend and principal got me the most. But basically to sum this movie up: You take "High School Musical" and add the plot of "It's a Wonderful Life" and you will get "17 Again."
-- Tommy Golightly, 17, Allderdice High School
I worry about Zac Efron. Really, I do. I can tell that deep in his heart the teen superstar wants to be a bad boy - to litter, maybe, or park in a handicapped spot and to hell with the consequences. Even if he did, though, no one would believe him. He's just too nice. This isn't a movie star, it's a prom date.
Thing is, he's a great prom date; when Efron shows up in the very first shot of "17 Again" shirtless and sweaty on a basketball court, the screening audience I was with pawed the ground in communal ecstasy. The movie ladles him out like chum for young teenage girls (and their sisters, mothers, and grandmothers), and if Efron gives a likable performance in the bargain, that's gravy.
The movie itself is petrified meatloaf. It's a body-transference comedy in the vein of "Big," "Freaky Friday," and other candidates for Turner Classics. After that opening sequence, in which 1989 high school stud Mike O'Donnell (Efron) blows the big game to be with pregnant girlfriend Scarlett (Allison Miller), we cut to the present. Mike is now played by Matthew Perry, and it ain't pretty. Warning to parents: "17 Again" considers 37 a prime age for being pushed out onto the ice floe.
Scarlett is now played by - hooray - Leslie Mann, the tart, helium-voiced savior of Judd Apatow comedies (she's Mrs. Apatow, too). The couple's children are surly Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and punching bag Alex (Sterling Knight). Everyone hates Mike, and why not? He's angry his life didn't pan out and he looks like a Friend with a career hangover. Cue the otherworldly janitor (Brian Doyle Murray), a bridge scene that rips off "It's a Wonderful Life" and - whammo - Matthew Perry is Zac Efron again. Movie saved.
The gist is that young Mike has to rescue his failing marriage by hanging out with his own kids and cozying up to his now-older wife. "17 Again" thus plays up the cougar comedy (that's the polite word for it), and Mann is such a sweetie-pie farceur that the movie actually threatens to get weirdly hot. The bit where Mike's daughter turns her sights on him is just weird, though. "Back to the Future" made this sort of incestuous envelope-pushing work, but that movie starred Michael J. Fox. Zac Efron, sir, is no Michael J. Fox.
He is pleasant, though; gets some nice top-spin on his dialogue, dances a bit, plays well with others. Efron's not without talent but he is without the presence - the mysterious charismatic heft - required of an actual movie star. On the other hand, being very, very pretty and very, very polite worked for Troy Donahue and Bobby Sherman. (Girls, ask your elders.)
And "17 Again" mostly avoids becoming "High School Musical 4: Middle Age Dread" by surrounding its star with fleet-footed supporting players. In addition to Mann, there's Thomas Lennon as Mike's best friend from childhood, a walking collection of sci-fi/fantasy-geek cliches made bearable by the prop department and the actor's deadpan enthusiasm. Lennon has to pretend to be young-again Mike's dad, which brings him into contact with the school principal played by Melora Hardin ("The Office"), who does good comic distress until the script asks her to turn silly.
Even comedian Margaret Cho shows up as a high school health instructor, tossing out condoms with merry abandon. That right there should clue parents into the fact that we're not in G-rated Kansas anymore, Sharpay. The director is Burr Steers, who long ago (OK, 2002) made a film called "Igby Goes Down" that's a beautifully written, expertly played story of bitter teen confusion. Echoes of that skill can be seen here.
Still, "17 Again" is product, loaded with high fructose corn syrup so the girls will like it (and they will) and as meaningful as an afternoon at the mall. The movie's most radical notion is that Zac Efron could convince a class of high school seniors, played by actors in their mid-20s, to throw away their condoms and take an abstinence pledge.
See what I mean? Nice.
<The Spectrum (University at Buffalo)
Prepare for an onslaught of Zac Efron-insanity: dorm room walls plastered with Hollywood's sexiest swoop and the blinding bright light of his glistening washboard abs illuminating the night sky.
The "King of Disney" has done it once again, bringing his effervescent smile to the big screen, along with a gaggle of 'tween girls everywhere sprinting to catch a glimpse of this young Brad Pitt in the making.
Efron's new film, 17 Again, is the reflective tale of Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry, Birds of America) looking back on his high school glory days, wondering how his life would have turned out if he never left his promising basketball future on the court.
Finding himself in the midst of an impeding divorce from his high school sweetheart Scarlett (Leslie Mann, Knocked Up) and a nonexistent relationship with his children Alex and Maggie (Sterling Knight and Michelle Tranchtenberg), all Mike has on his side is his geek-turned-rich best friend Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon, I Love You, Man) allowing him to squat in the spare bedroom.
As often forecasted, when it rains, it pours. Mike finds himself falling into a warped tunnel of fate, turning his dejected adult self back into the confident and exultant 17-year-old stud he once was.
Returning to his teenage prime (Efron), Mike lights up the screen as he realizes that his remarkable transformation is not to benefit his life lost, but rather to help his children find a path that leads them to a self-defined state of autonomy.
Returning to his old stomping grounds at Hayden High, Mike masks himself as Ned's son and heads straights to Principal Jane Masterson's (Melora Hardin, Hannah Montana: The Movie) office to re-enroll under the pseudo-name Mark.
Once inside the halls, Mark finds himself quick at work to turn Maggie and Alex's future into gold. Realizing that he was not the dominant father figure he wished he were, he uses this time to change the relationships.
Efron does a surprisingly fantastic job at capturing the raw emotion that his adult character is still coming to grips with. His witty catch phrases and jaw-dropping stares allow him to move throughout Hayden High effortlessly while he keeps his eye on the prize: getting Scarlett to rethink their divorce.
Lennon steals the show as the hilariously Jedi/Trekie-loving Ned as he attempts to muster up the courage to ask the principal out on a date.
With a slew of failed attempts in attention grabbing garb, he finally wins her over and realizes that they have much more in common than he expected. The side love story does not take away from the movie's main objective but makes for a delightful treat for those who need a break from Efron's overwhelming physique.
The movie does well as the plot strays away from being the typical account of getting a second chance at life.
Directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) and written by Jason Filardi (Bringing Down the House), the duo creates a charming atmosphere that helps propel the predictable storyline into a memorable spring offering. Though the film was cast well, they could have replaced Tranchtenberg, whose days in high school have far surpassed her.
Overall, the film will leave audiences rethinking their idea of reliving their past. However, this film does not intend to re-write history, but rather create a clear future for a movie star.
Just don't tell Troy Bolton.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I have joined the hordes of shamefaced heterosexual men who have a crush on Zac Efron.
He's likeable, has glittering star-quality and good comic timing. And he's oh-so-pretty. Don't judge me. Efron's people are keen to secure his star status removed from his success in High School Musical and Hairspray.
As shameless star vehicles go, 17 Again is kinda fun and almost, like, totally awesome.
Mike O'Donnell (Perry) is 37 years old and disappointed with his life. He hates his job, his kids (Trachtenberg and Knight) hate him and his wife (Mann) has just thrown him out of the house.
Then, as it only happens in the movies, he gets a chance to do things over when he is magically transformed into his 17-year-old self (Efron).
Prompted by his uber-geeky billionaire best friend Ned (Lennon), Mike realises he has been sent back for a reason: to set his kids on the right path and make things right with his wife. Naturally, the best place to do this from is high school.
The more sentimental scenes are hard to swallow, but they are, for the most part, lubed with great comedy.
17 Again is crammed with comic nuggets, many of them coming from Lennon. He gets the most laughs with his deadpan delivery and nerdy accoutrement. Apart from Lennon, though, it's the Zac Efron show. Perry is in for a tiny bit and Mann doesn't get to do all that much.
But that just means more Zac Efron! Oodles and oodles of Efron! Yay!
Hmm … And I've just used the word oodles. Twice. Now you can judge me.
If you liked … Never Been Kissed, Big, 13 Going On 30, Like Father Like Son, Vice-Versa, Freaky Friday or Risky Business … you will like this.
How many times does this movie need to be made? We already have “Big,” “Vice Versa,” “Like Father Like Son” and a couple of “Freaky Fridays” — what do director Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down” ) and writer Jason Filardi (“Bringing Down the House”) have to add to the rich tapestry of age-swapping flicks?
Not a whole lot.
Matthew Perry plays Mike the Old Dude (practically geriatric at 37), a sad sack in the midst of a divorce from his high school sweetheart (Leslie Mann). He left his basketball dreams behind to get married and start a family, and now 20 years later, he blames his mid-life crisis-fueled angst on that one decision. His kids ignore him, his soon-to-be-ex is tossing his belongings through a chipper shredder out back, and he’s bunking with his pal, Ned (Thomas Lennon) in a house filled with nerdy sci-fi memorabilia.
After a particularly painful day at the office, our guy stands in his old high school lobby, staring at a photo of himself from the late ¤’80s when he was Big Man on Campus. And then a magical janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray who voiced Flying Dutchman on “Spongebob SquarePants”) leads Mike to a bridge in the rain, ala “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Mike falls off the bridge into a soggy vortex and hours later discovers he’s not only 17, he also looks like Zac Efron.
Efron takes over as Mike the Young Dude at this point, and the film quickly improves, mostly because the pairing of Efron’s clean-cut, Dudley Do-Right shtick and Lennon’s barely contained insanity is often funnier than expected. Efron’s Mike goes back to school with his kids and does what you’d imagine. First he befriends his son (Sterling Knight), rescues him from bullies, helps him get on the basketball team and coaches the kid toward a girlfriend. Then he derides his daughter’s (Michelle Trachtenberg) choice of boyfriend, encourages her to go to a good college and later has to fight off her advances. You know, because now her dad is hot and she doesn’t know he’s her dad. Kinda gross, I know, but inappropriate relationships are S.O.P. for age-swap flicks. So’s the make-over montage where Efron goes from hip-hop-hippie to hipster and all the teen girls in the theatre completely lost their minds and started screaming, “OMIGOD! OMIGOD! LOOKIT! LOOKIT!” I may never get the hearing back in my right ear.
Getting the chance to guide his kids toward a better life without all the guff he’d get if he still looked like their dad is also S.O.P. Pining for and trying to win back his great love is simply movie cliché. What’s weird and different about “17 Again” — what bumps it slightly out of mind-bendingly average — is the sub-plot. Somebody figured out that having interesting secondary characters doing their own thing on the side might enhance the film.
Mike’s buddy, Ned (Lennon of “Reno: 911” fame) was the tiny Dungeons and Dragons nerd in high school that grew up to make a killing in software. Now he’s rich and stupidly eccentric. His house is filled with comic books, swords and movie memorabilia. He wears Spock ears around the house, drinks out of Darth Vader mugs and wears a Cloak of Invisibility to basketball games. He also has a huge crush on the hot redheaded principal (Melora Hardin of “The Office“) who’s unimpressed by his money, his hideous rodeo-meets-runway outfits or lavish gifts (like a school bus with her name painted on the side.) It’s a horrifying romance, it has absolutely no bearing on the main story and it’s downright weird — which all adds up to refreshingly different.
But all good things must come to an end and so Efron has to turn back into Old Man Perry, where six-pack abs slack into 40 ouncers and perfectly smart people have to work for idiots spewing corporate jargon. It’s a hard knock life. But maybe that’s why this movie gets made over and over again; every generation apparently wants a couple of “Freaky Fridays” to call their own.
Camera Film Critic Jeanine Fritz is pleased to announce Efron will not be remaking “Footloose.”
As I settled down to watch the latest man-turns-into-a-boy film 17 Again, I was fully expecting to watch in wonder and amazement at the long-overdue return to the big screen of Matthew Perry. Turns out the star of The Whole Nine/Ten Yards franchise and "Friends" is in about 10 minutes of this movie. What a colossal disappointment that man behind Chandler continues to remain underappreciated by Hollywood. The good news is that instead of Perry playing the adult version of Mike O'Donnell, a one-time high school basketball superstar with great promise, for the entire film, we get Zac Efron as the 17-year-old Mike who gets a second chance to attend high school, win the big game, and get the girl. Back in the '80s, Mike knocked up his high school sweetheart and walked away from the most important game in his life so that he could ask her to marry him. Throwing away his hopes of a basketball scholarship, Mike instead takes a job at a pharmaceutical company where he is consistently passed over for promotions. When we meet the adult Mike, he is in the middle of a divorce from wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann), and his teen kids (Sterling Knight as Alex and Michelle Trachtenberg as Maggie) can barely stand the sight of him.
After a weird encounter with a mystical janitor, Mike is turned back into his 17-year-old self but he's not sure why. He turns to his oldest friend and consummate nerdling Ned Gold (the great Thomas Lennon, last seen with his tongue down Paul Rudd's throat in I Love You, Man), who does copious amounts of research in all of his science fiction and fantasy books to determine that Mike's transformation has occurred so that he can right some wrong in his life. Does it have to do with his kids? His soon-to-be ex-wife? His own life's disappointments? Mike sets out in the body of Zac Efron to find out.
Now I'm not a Zac Efron hater by any means, but I did find it really strange that after three rounds of playing a singing/dancing basketball star in the High School Musical films that he would literally open 17 Again shooting hoops (shirtless) and later joining the cheerleaders bust a move to the familiar strains of "Bust A Move." Way to help people see you as something more than a Disney puppet, dude. But to Efron's credit, the guy is loaded with seemingly limitless energy, and the guy has something resembling comic timing (hell, I thought his recent gig hosting SNL was funnier than Seth Rogen's episode the week before). I'll even go so far as to say that Efron is a pretty funny guy in this film, and where the stale script lets him down, he picks up the slack and makes us care about Mike's plight. Anyone whose knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss Efron simply because he's good looking, has floppy hair, and has the largest man nipples I've ever seen is missing out on an actor I suspect will be around a very long time. Watch him in Hairspray, and maybe you'll get a sense what I'm talking about.
Director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, and episodes of "Weeds," "The L Word," and "Big Love") does at least one very smart thing in letting his supporting cast come to the foreground enough to keep things interesting. I was particularly amused by Lennon's sad and relentless attempts to woo high school principal Masterson, played by "The Office's" Melora Hardin. When the two finally discover what they have in common, it's a terrific melding of the minds. Pretty much every second that Lennon is on screen is better than the seconds when he's not. Leslie Mann's Scarlett is good if only because she's the only one who seems to realize that young Mike today looks exactly like young Mike from years earlier. And while she doesn't make the connection, she does find herself drawn to the young man who has become good friends with son Alex. Knight and Trachtenberg have their moments, but they kind of just take up space while far more interesting and amusing things happen around them.
Look, I'm not going to argue with anyone over whether 17 Again is worth checking out. I'm about as on the fence about recommending the film as you can be. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to deny the appeal of Zac Efron any longer. I don't think I've ever used the term "star quality" in my life, but if such a thing exits, this guy has it. And it's the combination of and chemistry between him and Lennon that keeps this movie from dying a violent death. In a strange way, I stopped paying attention to the plot of the film and watched these two performers work (sometimes struggle) to keep the film interesting, with the occasional laugh thrown in. In the end, there are at least two or three other comedies I'd rather you spend your hard-earned money on, but if you've seen those films already, you could do worse than 17 Again. I know that's not a resounding endorsement, but it's more of one than I thought I'd give. Take that for what its worth.
Salt Lake Tribune 5-Minute Review
If not for one thing, this by-the-numbers comic retread -- about sad-sack Mike (Matthew Perry), who makes a wish, à la "It's a Wonderful Life," and reverts to his 17-year-old form (when he looked like Zac Efron) so he can rediscover his wife (Leslie Mann) and appreciate his kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight) -- wouldn't be worth a second look. That one thing is Thomas Lennon, best known as the short-shorted Lt. Dangle on "Reno 911!," who steals every scene as Mike's dorky best friend, Ned, a Lamborghini-driving software millionaire who fills his house with all the science-fiction memorabilia eBay can provide. Director Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down") goes through the motions of progressing Mike's emotional awakening, but he's clearly more invested in giving Lennon's Ned every possible chance to make us laugh.
Zac Efron is back in high school, sans the singing and dancing but still making with the fancy footwork on the basketball court in "17 Again,” a comedy with some sweetness and laughs but a plot gimmick that’s getting old.
The Burr Steers-directed screenplay by Jason Filardi opens in 1989 when Mike O’Donnell (Efron) — a kid with a future so bright he ought to wear shades, like the Timbuk3 hit of the period — is about to show off his star moves on the court in front of a college scout. But when he learns his girlfriend, Scarlet, is pregnant, he chucks his hoop dreams to become a young family man.
Almost 20 years later, his glory days are a dim memory; his marriage to Scarlet (Leslie Mann) has run aground; his teenage kids have written him off as a loser; he’s been passed over for promotion at work; and he’s crashing at the home of his nerd-turned-techno-billionaire buddy Ned (Thomas Lennon). To top it all off, he now looks very much like Matthew Perry, because that’s who’s playing him at age late-thirtysomething.
Mike’s life is in sad shape, and he can’t help wishing he could return to his flaming youth, knowing what he’s learned as an adult, and get a second shot at life. And guess what? A weird encounter with an old guy (Brian Doyle Murray) dressed as a high school janitor results in that wish being granted. Mike wakes up the next morning looking like Zac Efron again.
Ned, still the same sci-fi and comic book geek he was as a kid, is quick to accept Mike’s rejuvenation is real. He agrees to act as Mike’s guardian and help him re-enroll in his old high school under an assumed name. Mike’s plan is to regain his big-man-on-campus standing, but he quickly discovers there’s a vast difference between a youthful appearance and a youthful outlook.
Still, Mike uses his mature knowledge to work the teachers and the cliques and outsmart the school bully, while insinuating himself back into the lives of his son (Sterling Knight) and daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg), offering friendship and wise advice that improves their lot in teenage life. At the same time, he becomes a frequent guest in his own home, finding new favor with his ex-wife who is amazed at how closely this new boy resembles her husband when he was in high school.
Through it all, Mike gradually begins to discover the things that should have mattered most in his adult life.
"17 Again” manages to infuse the well-worn youth-revisited story line with a little fresh magic, even if the denouement is all too predictable, and it’s hard to accept that Zac Efron is going to look even remotely like Matthew Perry when he’s 37. The faces may be wrong, but the film’s heart is in the right place.
And the bonus is Lennon, outrageous as the light saber-brandishing geek who never grew up.
Flavor-of-the-month Zac Efron headlines 17 Again, another reworking of Big, Vice Versa and Like Father, Like Son scenarios in which our hero gets a second chance at life's do-overs.
Efron, best known for the High School Musical series, actually holds his own as hot-shot basketball player Mike O'Donnell and is good eye candy for the tweens.
Bookending the movie is former Friends star Matthew Perry, the adult version of Mike, whose wife, Scarlett, played by Leslie Man (Knocked Up) wants a divorce due to irreconcilable differences. Fate offers him a second chance.
"Dribble this, wise guy."
"Dribble this, wise guy."
Adding to the comedy riff-raff is Thomas Lennon as Ned Gold, Mike's best friend and confidant, who has the Star Wars land-speeder as a bed. Like his bit part in I Love You, Man, he steals the show in certain spots.
Of course, there is the obligatory dance number, with Efron strutting his stuff, preceding a major basketball game.
Director Burr Steers, who did a commendable job with the black comedy stylings of Igby Goes Down, knows how to find the right balance of comedy with a light touch of drama.
NYC Movie Guru
n 1989, 17-year-old Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron), a high school senior, has a basketball scholarship and plays on the school’s varsity team. When his girlfriend, Scarlet (Allison Miller) informs him that she’s pregnant, he walks right off the court of an important game, throws away the pursuit of his dream of becoming a basketball star, and marries her instead.
20 years later, Mike (now played by Matthew Perry) lives in a suburban home with his two teenage kids, Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight), has a mundane job as a salesman at a pharmaceutical company. To top it all off, he has lost he and his wife, Scarlet (now played by Leslie Mann), have lost their romantic spark and she’s now in the process of divorcing him.
He visits his old high school where his children now attend and, soon after bumping into a mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray), he falls into a vortex that magically transforms him back into his 17-year-old self.
His best friend, Ned (Thomas Lennon), a sci-fi nerd obsessed with The Lord of the Rings, initially has a hard time believe that he’s actually Mike, but eventually believes him and pretends to be his dad in order to enrol him at the high school where he gets another chance to follow his dream.
Mike also gets to know his son, Alex, who has no idea that he’s actually his father, and confronts the bully, Stan (Hunter Parrish), who has been tormenting Alex and happens to be dating Mike’s daughter, Maggie.
He also eventually gets to know Scartlet and has some awkwardly funny interactions with her. Meanwhile, Ned desperately tries to get a date out of the school’s sexy high school principal (Melora Hardin) no matter how many times she rejects him.
Although the plot sounds convoluted and could have easily turned into a silly mess, it actually becomes quite delightful, hilarious and sweet thanks to its terrific, lively cast who all seem to be having a lot of fun in their roles. It’s especially amusing to watch Zac Efron give a charming, convincing performance as Mike, balanced by the comic energy of Thomas Lennon as Ned. Zac Efron radiates more charisma than the majority of young actors today.
The screenplay by Jason Filardi combines comedy with just the right amounts of drama and romance. Fortunately, the humor rarely turns silly, inane or too mean-spirited.
Sure, a lot of what happens to Mike can be considered as predictable, but that predictability doesn’t actually take away from the overall entertainment value of the film.
Director Burr Steers, who wrote and directed Igby Goes Down, knows how to let each actor and actress shine while moving the pace briskly enough so that there’s rarely a dull moment to be found.
At an ideal running time of 98 minutes, 17 Again manages to be a delightful, crowd-pleasing comedy radiating with a charismatic performance by Zac Efron. It’s pure, undiluted fun.