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17 Again Reviews Part 1 (AKA never let it be said I am not dedicated to Zefron news, lol...)

Okay, looking back this was not a good idea, lol. Logically I knew there'd be a ton of reviews but JHC, this took forever. OMG. And no, I don't actually expect anyone to read all of this, lol. Anyway we'll start with the best overall gauge of the critical response to the movie:

Rotten Tomatoes
Critics Consensus: 17 Again Is Sweet And Poignant

If you've seen Big, Back to the Future, and Peggy Sue Got Married, you'll have a pretty good idea what's in store with 17 Again. The good news? The critics say the film may be derivative, but it's also clever, entertaining, and poignant, largely thanks to an impressive post-High School Musical turn from Zac Efron. He stars as Mike O'Donnell, a big man on campus circa 1989 who, 20 years later, finds his life and his marriage to high school sweetie Scarlett (Leslie Mann) on the rocks. He gets a second chance to correct his mistakes when he's magically transformed into his 17-year-old self -- albeit with his late-30s personality intact -- and discovers a thing or two about life. While some critics find the film's premise a bit unseemly (a 30-year-old bro-ing down with minors?), most say 17 Again is mostly sweet, funny, and perceptive, and that Efron has a bright future as a leading man.

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Now for a shitload of other reviews. I privileged larger publications over smaller ones in order as best I could.

Roger Ebert, Sun Times
three stars

Mike O'Donnell's wife wants a divorce, his kids are remote, he didn't get the job promotion he expected, and everything else in his life has gone wrong since that magic year when he was 17, a basketball star, in love, and looked like Zac Efron instead of Matthew Perry. He's obviously a case for treatment by a Body Swap Movie.

Revisiting the trophy case at his old high school, Mike encounters a janitor who, from the way he smiles at the camera, knows things beyond this mortal coil. If only Mike could go back to 17 and not make all the same mistakes. In "17 Again," he can. He falls into a Twilight Zone vortex and emerges as Zac Efron. They say be careful what you wish for, because you might get it. Mike should have been more specific. Instead of wishing to be 17 again, he should have wished to go back 20 years in time.

Yes, he becomes himself trapped inside his own 17-year-old body. Same wife, same kids, same problems. As Old Mike getting divorced, he'd moved in with his best friend, Ned (Thomas Lennon), and now he throws himself on Ned's mercy: Will Ned pose as his father, so Young Mike can be his son and help out his kids by enrolling in the same high school again? Ned, who is a software millionaire and middle-age fanboy, agrees, especially after he falls helplessly in love with the high school principal, Jane (Melora Hardin).

Young Mike becomes the new best friend of his insecure son, Alex (Sterling Knight). Then he meets Alex's mom, Scarlet (Leslie Mann), who, of course, before the vortex was his wife, and before that his high school bride (Allison Miller). She thinks it's strange that he looks exactly like the boy she married at 17. He explains he is the son of an uncle, who I guess would have to be Old Mike's brother, so it's curious Old Scarlet never met him, but if she doesn't ask that, why should I?

In high school, Young Mike again becomes a basketball star, befriends Alex, and attempts to defend his Gothish daughter, Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg), against the predations of her jerk boyfriend, who as a hot-rodding jock traveling with a posse is, of course, the last guy in school who would date, or be dated by, a moody girl who wears black.

I've seen Body Switches before (Tom Hanks in "Big"). The first act of this movie seemed all retread. Then it started to dig in. There are twin romances; as Shakespeare demonstrated, one must be serious and the other farcical. Young Mike is still seriously in love with his wife, Old Scarlet, and she is powerfully attracted to this boy who's a double for her first love. She thinks that's wrong. He knows it isn't but how can he explain?

Meanwhile, best buddy Ned courts Principal Masterson, who for the first time in his life has Taught Him What Love Means. Before her, ecstasy was owning Darth Vader's costume. I will not describe what happens the first time they go out to dinner, except to say that it's comic genius, perfectly played by Melora Hardin and Thomas Lennon.

I attended a screening held by a radio station, which attracted mainly teenage girls who left their boyfriends behind. When Zac Efron took off his T-shirt, the four in front of me squealed as if there were buzzers in their seats. Now that he's a little older, Efron has a Tom Cruiseish charm, and a lot of confidence. Why Matthew Perry was cast as his adult self is hard to figure; does your head change its shape in 20 years?

"17 Again" is pleasant, harmless PG-13 entertainment, with a plot a little more surprising and acting a little better than I expected. Mike is dispatched into that vortex by the bearded old janitor with a delighted smile. The janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) is quite a convenience, supplying vortexes when needed. If his smile reminds you of anyone, he's played by Bill Murray's brother.

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NY Times, Manohla Dargis

What is Zac Efron? Despite his ubiquity and supernova stardom in certain shrieking demographic circles, I feel confident that there are others who are curious about this weighty question of culture. For starters Zac Efron is a he, a Californian by birth and of drinking age in the state of his birth (21). He is pale, pliable and very pretty (picture-perfect for bedroom walls), with a curtain of hair that sweeps across his forehead and well-manicured dark brows as if gently stirred by the collective exhalation of a thousand virgins. I’m fairly certain I heard that exhalation — I certainly heard the shrieks — when I watched his new movie, “17 Again.”

The dewy Mr. Efron is also, of course, the most visible star of the “High School Musical” juggernaut, which has taken him from the Disney Channel to the familiar rite of passage as host of “Saturday Night Live.” The maturation of Zac Efron, the bid to have him gently (lucratively) transition out of the grip of his pubescent fan base and into the wider commercial paw without pulling a Lindsay Lohan, partly explains “17 Again.” Even the movie’s premise — an adult transformed into his adolescent self — speaks to this uneasy transitional phase, though it seems a little cruel to the fans who must prepare for the inevitable, that someone decided an exhausted-looking Matthew Perry should play their shining boy at 37.

In pop cinema terms that premise is almost as old as Jodie Foster, who starred in the first “Freaky Friday” (1976) as a girl who switches bodies with her mother. Ms. Foster’s preternatural maturity and husky voice made the part work for much the same reasons that the 2003 remake with Ms. Lohan did: you believed there were old(er) souls trapped inside those young bodies. Ms. Foster and Ms. Lohan’s unforced talent helped. A confident physical performer, Mr. Efron isn’t in their league, and it’s too early to tell if he ever will be. Although he can hit all the emotional notes in a scene, there is a level of calculation behind his performance and piercing blue eyes, a protective barrier or just self-consciousness that needs dismantling.

Meanwhile he works it — man, does he work it — strutting across the screen like a teen idol (like Zac Efron!), playing the star with an easy smile, insouciant haircut and even bared muscles: his character, Mike, is shooting hoops without a shirt in the very first shot of the movie. (Cue the shrieks.) The story, written by Jason Filardi, pivots emotionally on the moment when Mike turned his back on a potential basketball scholarship and all the good things that would have presumably come with it because he decided to dry the eyes of his weeping girlfriend, Scarlet (Allison Miller as the teenager, Leslie Mann as the adult). From the age of adult Mike and Scarlet’s oldest teenager it’s clear that, back in 1989, they were Just Saying Yes.

Given the story’s obnoxious implications — sex, meaning girls, can ruin your life — it’s no surprise that Scarlet doesn’t get the chance to revisit her past and tell her boyfriend to put on a condom. Instead the adult Mike clicks his heels or rather falls into a badly computer-generated whirlpool trying to chase a stranger with a menacing twinkle (Brian Doyle-Murray), who guides him to his journey. Suddenly, Mike is 17 again and sloshing inside his business suit. He takes refuge with his best friend, Ned (a hilarious Thomas Lennon, nearly sprinting away with the movie), a former late-20th-century high school dweeb turned early-21st-century master of the universe who lives in a Modernist house crammed with pricey boy toys and sleeps in a “Star Wars” landspeeder.

The director, Burr Steers, whose other credits include “Igby Goes Down” and stints directing TV shows, keeps people and things moving fast enough so that you don’t have time to worry about the details, like the inanity of the story. Like any savvy director charged with a high-end advertising campaign, he keeps his main product — Mr. Efron — front and center and nicely lighted. Even so, Mr. Steers also understands the value of his supporting team, particularly Mr. Lennon, whose character enters geek heaven upon sighting Mike’s principal, Ms. Masterson (Melora Hardin). Mike’s transformation might be magical, but it’s this pocket-size portrait of a sexy, thinking, adult woman who can seamlessly go from wearing high-heeled boots to pointy elf ears that’s out of this world.

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Entertainment Weekly (Lisa Schwarzbaum)
C-

The philosopher George Santayana famously wrote that ''those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'' The philosopher Homer Simpson famously responded ''D'oh!'' The lame high school comedy 17 Again tries charmlessly to synthesize those two schools of thought, preaching a pro forma 
appreciation of adult responsibilities while making pro forma jokes about campus 
archetypes including the athlete, the bully, and the nerd. The result is a slack do-over fantasy in which Zac Efron, as a basketball star, looks baffled as to why he hasn't been asked to sing and dance.

Instead, the twinkly, pleasing, 21-year-old pop heartthrob stretches by playing a 17-year-old, twice. At first, Efron's Mike O'Donnell is a class-of-'89 hoops star who forfeits the possibility of a college sports scholarship when he chooses to marry his pregnant girlfriend. (Levi Johnston, consider yourself schooled.) Then, briefly, two decades later, the thicker body of Mike is inhabited by Matthew Perry, playing an embittered dude unable to face his unraveling marriage to that same childhood sweetheart (Knocked Up's Leslie Mann, too enchanting for any man to leave) or to face his own uncommunicative teenagers.

After being splashed with in-the-movies magic water that allows him to experience school life with a Gen-Xer's wisdom, Efron reappears as 17-year-old Mike again, but with thirtysomething gravitas. His kids are now his classmates. And his hot wife is now the mother of those classmates.

In what passes for the most interesting (if cheerfully most irritating) supporting character, Reno 911!'s Thomas Lennon camps it up as Ned, a mega-nerd who has been friends with Mike since back in the day, and who agrees to pose as ''young'' Mike's dad. Still a mega-nerd, Ned is still, not shockingly, a single guy. But now, he's also a technogeek billionaire. 17 Again might have had fun emphasizing how high school geeks inherit the earth. Instead, the filmmakers hang too desperately with the boring popular kids, underestimating the cool dorks. C–

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MSNBC, Alonso Duralde

Nothing is ever completely original, “there is nothing new under the sun,” all drama boils down to seven basic plots, I get it.

But still.

There’s an unspoken but understood arrangement between filmmakers and the audience: Filmgoers don’t object when movie people rehash old movies and TV shows, so long as the end product injects some kind of new life or wit or spin or take on the material. Plundering the past is OK when the thieves do something interesting with the stolen goods.
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And then there’s a movie like “17 Again,” which grafts together oodles of familiar characters and storylines without the benefit of anything new to say.

The film begins with a flashback to 1989 and a turning point in the life of high school senior Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron). It’s the big game, and a college scout has come to watch Mike play basketball; seconds before the game begins, however, Mike’s girlfriend Scarlett informs him that she’s pregnant, so he walks out of the gym, pledging to devote his life to their new family.

Cut to 20 years later: Mike (now played by Matthew Perry) is a griping loser whom Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has kicked out of the house for torturing her and their two kids with his bitterness and regret. On the day he gets fired from his sales job, Mike goes back to his old high school, where a magical janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) gives him the opportunity to become young again and fix his old mistakes.

After an “It’s a Wonderful Life”­–esque interlude where Mike jumps off a bridge in an attempt to save the mysterious old man, he wakes up as a teenager and re-enrolls in high school. Mike’s nerdy-billionaire best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon of “Reno 911!”) figures out that Mike is on some sort of “spirit journey,” and Mike discovers that the real reason behind his return to school is to bond with and help his estranged children Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg — hey, wait, shouldn’t Maggie be 20 years old, and not a high school senior, by this movie’s calendar?) and Alex (Sterling Knight).

Grafting together pieces of “Big,” “Freaky Friday” and “Peggy Sue Got Married,” among many others, “17 Again” hits the usual plot beats, with young Mike steering Maggie away from an abusive boyfriend and giving Alex the confidence to talk to girls and join the basketball team. If only any of this were funny — Efron shows little flair for comedy, and he doesn’t get much help from Jason Filardi’s deadly script, which even hobbles the usually-hilarious Lennon. (The only remotely amusing moments come from Lennon’s pursuit of Melora Hardin as a high-school principal.)

The real stand-out moments of “17 Again,” oddly enough, are the heart-tuggy moments between young Mike and older Scarlett (who thinks the kid is a cougar-chaser until she figures out who he really is). He may not excel at getting laughs, but Efron handles the movie’s attempts at poignancy with some flair; this kid needs to find another “The Notebook” to star in, stat.

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San Francisco Chronicle

If you want to illustrate the acid rain that 20 years can pour down onto a human face, just show Zac Efron and then make us believe that life has turned him into Matthew Perry. Oh, that beautiful boy - oh, that lumpy-faced man. What happened? Failure and disappointment? Self-hatred? Grand-scale spiritual error? We're just scratching the surface here. For Efron to turn into Perry in a mere two decades would require something more drastic, like sitting down every morning to a breakfast of hot, steaming toxic waste.

Yet what better way to make us feel it - the sheer relief of going back in time. In "17 Again," Mike (Perry) is a washed-up pharmaceutical salesman with an estranged wife and two kids who think he's an idiot. But one day, through some movie magic, he transforms back into the 17-year-old he once was - a basketball star who could have had a scholarship if he hadn't married his pregnant girlfriend.

"17 Again" is a variation on the old if-only-I-could-go-back fantasy. In this variation, the hero doesn't go back. Nothing changes, except his body. He's young, he's handsome, the world is before him ... and yet inside, he's still middle-aged. He cares about his kids. He's attracted to his wife. "17 Again" isn't a sophisticated work of art, nor was it intended to be. It's often silly, sometimes fun silly, sometimes too silly. Yet in one area - its honest, unself-conscious exploration of the conflict between a man's physical and psychological age - it goes deeper than the much more ambitious "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

The credit goes to Efron, a teen idol who has girls shrieking in the theater from his first close-up but who is also an actor and proves it over the course of the picture. He conveys Mike's dual nature. It will come as news to none of his young admirers that Efron has good eyes, pale blue and piercing. He can use them, too, for more than cosmetic effect. He brings to the role the sensitive, fretting gaze of the concerned parent - one who finds himself in the same high school as his own kids.

The movie's limits are the limits of the formula. There's only one way "17 Again" can be resolved, but doing so requires a shoehorn. Also, why did Mike's teenage daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) have to be presented as such a repellent brat? If you believe Hollywood, there's no teenage-girl nastiness, ingratitude or misbehavior that can't be forgiven, even without an apology. That's a great message to be reinforcing in a movie that's going to be seen by every 14-year-old girl in America.

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Rolling Stone
1 star

Since Zac Efron has the chops to make it in movies (see Hairspray and the upcoming Me and Orson Welles), it's a damn shame that 17 Again is such a lame-ass rip-off of Tom Hanks' Big. Efron plays Mike, once a high school basketball hotshot till his girlfriend, Scarlet, says she's pregnant. Then, zap! Mike is 37, played by a hangdog Matthew Perry, and settled in a job he hates, two teen kids who hate him and an impending divorce from Scarlet (Leslie Mann, doing wonders with nothing). Zap two! Mike is 17 again. Girls hit on him, even his own daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg). Eww! Then she thinks he's gay — the perfect hair, the too-tight jeans! Double eww! Director Burr Steers, of the terrific Igby Goes Down, is stuck polishing clichès. If you can't figure out what happens, you've never seen a movie. And if you haven't, please, God, don't start with this one.

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Seattle Times, Tom Keogh
Zac Efron graduates from "High School Musical" into real comedy
"17 Again" is a somewhat uneven comedy about a midlife sad sack (Matthew Perry) who gets the chance to be a teen (Zac Efron) again. Efron carries the movie and proves to be a versatile and funny star.

Young Zac Efron's job in "17 Again" is to dominate a film that already features formidable comic talent from an older crowd, most of it from television — Matthew Perry ("Friends"), Thomas Lennon ("Reno 911!"), Melora Hardin ("The Office") — and, from the movies, Leslie Mann ("Knocked Up").

Just as he proved to be funny, versatile and quite effective as a host and sketch player on last week's "Saturday Night Live," Efron sets the overall tone of "17 Again" with self-effacing charm backed up by solid acting chops. If one of his objectives in making this PG-13 comedy is to ease himself out of strict association with Disney's "High School Musical" franchise, he succeeds in the same way Michael J. Fox transcended the "Family Ties" sitcom with "Back to the Future."

"17 Again" itself is far from perfect. One senses the filmmakers chose to hedge their bets by giving too much screen time to Lennon — who plays a wealthy, "Star Wars"-obsessed geek — in the event Efron didn't come through. The result is lumpy and irritating, but "17 Again" regroups whenever Efron is back on screen.

Leaning on an old body-switching Hollywood formula (anybody remember George Burns in "18 Again!"?), "17 Again" stars Perry as Mike, a midlife sad sack who feels unrewarded as an employee, husband and father. Magical intervention turns him back into his younger self (Efron), a high-school basketball star, albeit in the present.

Young Mike enrolls in his kids' (Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight) rowdy school so he can watch over them and discover some realities about teen life he was previously too obtuse to see. The earnest but comically nimble script by Jason Filardi deals with predictable ironies (Mike is a better dad as a same-age peer) and conflicts (Trachtenberg's unsuspecting character grows attracted to the hot new boy in school).

Director Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down") does well to match Perry's and Efron's line readings and emotions.

But the most memorable scenes pair Efron and Mann. The latter plays the elder Mike's estranged wife, who finds in young Mike the qualities she once saw in her husband and has long missed. The awkwardness of their mutual attraction (which never becomes anything uncomfortable to watch) is so sweet and sincere as to be genuinely moving.

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USA Today

Teen idols, especially those of the Disney Channel variety, seem lately to be a surprisingly responsible lot.

Zac Efron of High School Musical fame projects a sense of accountability to young female fans, as does Hannah Montana's Miley Cyrus. Where Cyrus seems duly conscious of being a role model, Efron takes his heartthrob status seriously.

In his first non-HSM starring role, he plays it safe and gently didactic as a teenager who is really a middle-aged man.

It's familiar formula. If you've seen Back to the Future, Freaky Friday or 13 Going on 30, you can divine the entire plot within minutes. Why Hollywood is so fascinated with high school undoubtedly has much to do with the box-office clout of the under-18 crowd. And who better to play a high school basketball star than Efron, who played one in High School Musical?

In fact, during the first few scenes, you might think you've wandered into a bargain screening of that tween-targeted hit franchise.

Efron plays Mike, a senior (class of '89) on his way to a bright future at a good college. Everything changes when his girlfriend, Scarlett, gets pregnant. They get married, and he misses college altogether.

Cut ahead to a 37-year-old Mike (Matthew Perry). He has grown bitter; Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has filed for divorce, and he has been passed over for a promotion at work. Perhaps worst of all, his kids seem to regard him with contempt.

He returns to his high school to pick up his kids and runs across a team photo from his glory days. A white-haired janitor spouts something about how Mike must wish he could do it all over again. He agrees, and is magically returned to his ultra-fit teenage/Efron self.

He chides his classmates for early sexual activity and tries to instill more mature values. Later, he is able to connect better with his teenage children, an element that gives the film some emotional heft. Otherwise, it's a by-the-book wish-fulfillment fantasy.

Though Efron's acting range is limited, he has a genial charm and decent comic timing. Helping out is a capable ensemble of support, including Thomas Lennon (I Love You, Man) and Melora Hardin (The Office).

Though not as clever as 13 Going on 30 or Freaky Friday, it's also not as hokey as Hannah. For a swoon-fest aimed at tweens, 17 Again has a lot going for it.

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Salon Magazine
Don't hate Zac Efron because he's beautiful. The teen heartthrob is charmingly casual as a washed-up 37-year-old transformed into his hunky high-school self.

In "17 Again" Zac Efron plays first a 17-year-old and then a 37-year-old trapped in a 17-year-old's body. Efron is charmingly casual and unapologetically good-looking: There's no reason, outside of sheer mean-spiritedness, not to like him. He's not the movie's problem. The problem is that cute Zac Efron grows up to be doughy, OK-looking Matthew Perry, and we're still supposed to find him dreamy, as his wife -- played by Leslie Mann -- does. While it's true that in real life great-looking teenagers often grow up to be average-looking (and perfectly nice) adults, the whole point of a movie like "17 Again" is to give us a dose of fantasy. In movie terms, the Zac Efron/Matthew Perry dichotomy is a cruel bait and switch. There's something a little punishing about the way the movie practically snaps at us, "You don't expect youthful beauty to last forever, do you?"

Of course we don't. And as the grown-up Michael O'Donnell, Perry is perfectly, acceptably sweet. But he wears the look of hangdog, middle-aged defeat a little too obviously -- he makes Willie Loman look like Kelly Ripa. The good news is he's not in the movie too much -- just a bit at the beginning and at the end -- which means we have lots of time to bask in the teen-heartthrob glory of Efron. And, face it, that's the reason "17 Again" exists in the first place.

That's clear in the opening scene, where we see young Mike, circa 1989, the star of his high school basketball team, warming up before a big game -- it could net him a scholarship and thus define his future. He's shirtless, natch, and as he raises his arms to sink the ball into the basket, we get a killer-obvious view of the wild thickets of hair under his armpits -- the crowd goes wild! Director Burr Steers (who made the 2002 coming-of-age comedy "Igby Goes Down") is canny enough to know that Efron is closing in on the last days of his appeal as a crush object for very young girls, so now is the time to show off his Tiger Beat brand of sexuality. That armpit hair is something of a sweet joke -- a reminder of the moment we realized that members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) had hair in interesting places and it made us feel all funny inside.

But after those first few minutes of glory, in which Mike basks in the crowd's adoration, his life takes an unexpected turn. He learns his girlfriend is pregnant; he decides to marry her instead of going to college. Fast-forward 20 years, and Mike -- the Perry version -- has been thrown out by Scarlett (Mann), the woman who was first his high school sweetheart and then his wife. His kids, played by Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg (who played "Dawn" on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") don't want to have much to do with him, either. His only friend is Ned (Thomas Gold), who used to be the nerdy water boy on the basketball team; he's now a rich, eccentric software genius -- and still a nerd. But he sticks by Mike, just as Mike stuck up for him years ago when he was an object of ridicule at school.
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Suddenly, a leprechaun disguised as a janitor (or something like that) gives Mike a chance to go back in time, ostensibly to change some crucial aspect of his life, or maybe just to learn something. And so we get Efron back, thank goodness. "17 Again" (which was written by Jason Filardi) takes a while to get cooking, and at times it just feels like a pale imitation of "13 Going on 30." Still, it's often breezily entertaining, partly thanks to Efron, who certainly knows how to be cute. But his timing is good, too, and he appears not to be hung up on his looks -- he talks and moves like a guy who knows he's had an extraordinary stroke of good luck and nothing more.

Efron is particularly good in his scenes with Mann, who's always been a wonderful comic actress. (She showed a great spark of craziness as far back as 1997, when she played loopy Ursula Stanhope in "George of the Jungle.") When she sees the "young" Mike -- he's posing as a friend of their son's, although he is, of course, the kid's father -- she immediately notes his resemblance to the high school version of her husband. The movie briefly makes the requisite cougar joke and then, thankfully, moves on.

Scarlett knows she needs to resist this adorable young hunk, and still she's drawn to him. At one point, just after she's returned from happy hour with a friend and thus has a few drinks under her belt, she steps right up to Mike and starts smooshing his face with her fingers, stretching his skin and caressing it at the same time, marveling at how much this guy looks like the younger version of her husband. He suffers this abuse gladly, like a pup who's happy to be getting his ears scratched. Mann and Efron make such a cute December-May couple that it's a bummer when Perry shows up again as, alas, he must. But for a time, at least, Mann and Efron get to play a match made in heaven -- a heaven where that middle-aged spare tire is just an illusion, and not something that anyone should be forced to carry around in real life.

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Washington Post, Dan Kois

Zac Efron is no Lindsay Lohan. That fact will come as a great relief to Efron's managers, who are no doubt crossing their fingers that their blue-eyed meal ticket, the beloved star of the "High School Musical" franchise, has no mug shots in his future. But it's too bad for "17 Again," Burr Steers's engaging but pedestrian comedy, that young Efron doesn't have a little bit more Lohan in him.

Efron is effortlessly diverting as an adult trapped in a teen's body in "17 Again." But, unlike Lohan -- who gave a rich performance as another adult trapped in a teen's body in the 2003 remake of "Freaky Friday" -- Efron has no edge. And although that edgelessness might prolong his career, it keeps "17 Again" from having anything surprising to say about teenage life in 2009.

"17 Again" starts in 1989 as high-school senior Mike O'Donnell (Efron) blows his chance at a basketball scholarship when he proposes to his pregnant girlfriend, Scarlett. Years later, Mike, now played by lumpen Matthew Perry, is bemoaning the life he could've had. He's passed over at work, and Scarlett (Leslie Mann) wants a divorce. When a mysterious man transforms Mike into his 17-year-old self, he re-enrolls at Hayden High School as Mark.

However, he finds that his children are having a very different high-school experience than they've been letting on. Brainy senior Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) is dating a jerk. Alex (engaging Sterling Knight) is being duct-taped to toilets by that same jerk (Hunter Parrish). Can their new friend Mark set them on the right path?

Efron, bless him, is not the kind of actor who puts a lot of work into figuring out how to act like a depressed, miserable 37-year-old guy.

Efron's teenage fans will give "17 Again" a hearty, squealing OMG. Their parents will appreciate the movie's brisk pace and nifty supporting cast (including Thomas Lennon, Margaret Cho and Jim Gaffigan) but will walk out of "17 Again" wishing that their daughters' unattainable love object, and the movie that's going to make him an even bigger star, was just a teensy bit more dangerous.

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Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips

Zac Efron, looking cool, is movie enough for the makers of "17 Again," a halfhearted fantasy that stars Efron in a role cryogenically frozen around the time of C. Thomas Howell's '80s heyday. He plays a high school basketball star who has everything going for him. His college sports career gets derailed by his girlfriend's unplanned pregnancy. This 1989 prologue doesn't last long, but the Boy George and Vanilla Ice references are intense.

Twenty bittersweet years later, Efron's Mike O'Donnell has turned into a defeatist schlump played by Matthew Perry, who peddles erectile dysfunction pills for his drug company and devoutly wishes to return to his teen glory days and change a few things. Up pops a magical whiskered janitor played by Brian Doyle-Murray, who zaps Mike back into his younger self (Efron). Though a dork inside, he's mack-worthy Zac on the outside, infiltrating his kids' classes under a transfer-student guise.

At one point, because the film is intent on the yummification of its star, Mike -- a near-middle-ager in the body of a 17-year-old -- finds himself in a sticky situation with his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg). This film's target audience wasn't born when "Back to the Future" came out, but some of you village elders may remember Lea Thompson's character giving Michael J. Fox's the Oedipal willies. A comparable scene in "17 Again," which is full of scenes disadvantageously similar to scenes in other films, had the kids squirming and "eeeeewwwwing!" like crazy.

What they weren't doing was laughing much. The movie, which makes high school seem only slightly less grim than "Lord of the Flies," tries to deal with teen sexuality and social pressures, but it's the same old song, sung out of key. The standard venal cliques are in place. If a film recycles images of the psychopathic jock boyfriend with the soul of a date rapist, or the Bratz-knockoff slutettes setting the fashion standard for the girls, at some point it risks not just reusing and commenting on these tropes but reinforcing them.

The movie's heart, of course, is with poor addled Mike and his kids, but "17 Again" works only fitfully to make the Efron-Perry character worth a story. I enjoyed Leslie Mann as Mike's neglected wife, puzzled about why she's repelled/attracted by her son's charismatic friend who keeps coming around to help with chores. But just as Mann was too good for "Drillbit Taylor," she's too good for this. Efron's fans may enjoy the film, simply because Their Guy is in it and he dances a little. However, younger admirers of the "High School Musical" movies are likely to ask a lot of questions, out loud.

They certainly were at the promotional screening I attended. "Mom, what's going on?" "Mom, what's a condom?" Call the "High School Musical" films what you will, but they aren't conflicted about who their audience is.

"17 Again," directed with a heavy hand by Burr Steers (who wrote and directed the "Rushmore" knockoff "Igby Goes Down"), pulls a laugh or two out of Thomas Lennon as Mike's smarmy, socially maladroit pal, Ned. But one or two isn't many, and on the whole I'd rather watch George Burns and Charlie Schlatter in "18 Again!" again.

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NY Daily News
three out of five stars

Why did Zac Efron pull out of the "Footloose" remake? After all, if "17 Again" is any guide, he's the perfect '80s heartthrob.

In fact, on a scale of 1 (Corey Haim in "License to Drive") to 10 (Michael Schoeffling in "Sixteen Candles"), Efron ranks a solid 8 ("Risky Business"-era Tom Cruise).

Burr Steers' good-natured throwback to movies like 1988's "18 Again" takes place in a fantasy universe a few steps beyond "High School Musical's" Disneyfied purity.

The change gives Efron a little freedom, and he makes the most of it.

We first meet Mike O'Donnell (Efron) in 1989 as a high school basketball player with everything going for him — until his girlfriend, Scarlett, gets pregnant.

Twenty years later, Mike (Matthew Perry) is unemployed, out of shape and separated from Scarlett (Leslie Mann).

Obsessed with the past, he's given another chance to get things right when he magically transforms back into his teenage self (Efron again).

Enrolling in school as the cool new kid, he soon finds his goals have changed.

Now he just wants to protect his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) from jock jerks, and help his unpopular son (Sterling Knight) make the basketball team.

All the while, he's hoping to woo Scarlett back — a plan made slightly more awkward by the fact that she thinks he's a teenager with a cougar fetish.

Though Mann and Perry are game, it's Efron who carries the movie.

Freed from his Disney bonds, he shows off unexpected depth, especially in his deft sense of humor.

Some of the best '80s comedies weren't the John Hughes hits, but under-the-radar quickies that found new life on video.

Though Efron is popular enough to draw a multiplex audience, the movie — from cheesy special ­effects to laid-back direction and unironic script — follows in that tradition.

"Footloose" probably would have been a slight step up, and solidified Efron's standing as the go-to guy for high school musicals. But now that we know he's more than just a pretty face, we can't ­really blame him if he doesn't want to play 17 again.

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IGN
1.5/5

April 16, 2009 - Walking into a movie like 17 Again, filing into the theater alongside parents and tweens, I'm struck by the knowledge that any legitimate, honest execution of this concept would pretty much have to be called NC-17 Again. Given the chance to go relive my youth in the guise of Zac Efron would undoubtedly result in all the sex, drugs and alcohol that this overweight, married film critic wishes he'd indulged in with greater frequency in the days before a woman could claim half his sh*t or the state of California could try him as an adult. So right off the bat, the fact that Matthew Perry is reverted back to his youth and doesn't do a single inappropriate thing, pretty much invalidates the entire movie.

That said, if you're a parent or a pre-teen, 17 Again is the kind of mindless, insubstantial romp that'll borrow your brain in exchange for a tub of popcorn, and if you're not aiming for anything resembling an actual movie, you might find yourself entertained. The plot is simple enough: After having given up his shot at a basketball career during the Big Game in high school, Mike O'Donnell spends the next 20 years blaming his soon-to-be ex-wife for the fact that his life didn't quite turn out the way he'd planned. Enter a mysterious Janitor who for no discernable reason, and wielding magical powers offered by the Gods of Half-Assed Screenwriting, transforms Perry back into his attractive, athletic high-school self. Having convinced his uber-geek best friend, played here by comedian Thomas Lennon, to act as his father, Mike enrolls in his own children's high school, convinced that he must recapture his former glories.

And then, for the next 90 minutes, nothing proceeds to happen. Sure, Mike goes around school acting like some high-and-mighty adult, befriending and defending his son and daughter against an assortment of bullies and boyfriends, but the incredible presto-changeo bestowed upon Mike is never really explored with any significant depth or drama. Mike is never really tempted to act out or indulge. He's never forced to reconnect with his youth in order to better understand and communicate with his children. Rather, he simply attempts to parent them from the body of a 17 year old boy. In fact, the movie becomes so much about what Mike believes he needs to do for his children that his own story, his active search for meaning or purpose – which seems so conveniently forgotten in the middle hour – isn't picked up until just moments before the film's conclusion.

The problem with these kinds of transformative films – which at their best are Pleasantville and at their most mediocre are 17 Again -- is the random, happenstance, entirely inorganic way in which the transformation is made. Whether from adult to teen, or from the modern day to the black-and-white past, there's always a Magical Janitor or Mysterious TV Repairman whose appearance seems only to facilitate the high-concept twist. But just where they come from, why they do what they do, or how they select those deserving of the knowledge is seldom, if ever, factored into the experience. At least the better films exercise the good sense to allow the main character a few occasions to interact with the figure, accepting or rejecting some imparted wisdom before continuing along the path. Here, we're simply supposed to accept the chubby-cheeked janitor as "The Thing That Starts the Movie," absent any apparent motivation or actual presence throughout the film.

And what's frustrating here is that Effon is bizarrely likeable. He's the kind of young actor who seems so attractive, pleasant and capable that part of you just wants to punch him forcefully in the face. When Ed Norton says in Fight Club that he wants to destroy something beautiful, it should have been Effron, not Leto, who took the beating. But he's got tremendous charisma and he handles the role convincingly, playing the man trapped in the body of a boy with at least some understanding of the adult inside. So much so that when Perry does re-emerge at the very end, you find yourself wishing that he hadn't. Overall, the fault of the film can't be placed on any of the actors. In fact, it's the performances that rush in to save the day where the script and overblown direction falter, and were it not for Lennon, the movie might not have gotten a single laugh at all.

But here's the thing. This movie isn't for me. The people for whom this movie was made won't question the logic or dig too far into the character's growth (or lack thereof). Instead, they'll simply laugh at the jokes and fawn over the cast and leave the theater mildly amused and with no idea they've just been cheated out of anything resembling an actual film. Though with that in mind, 17 Again is the kind of movie you can shuffle the children into while you go see more high-quality fare, and if, for some reason, they ask you to come along, then at the very least, you won't entirely hate it.

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Philadelphia Inquirer
three out of four stars

If it does nothing else, 17 Again - in which a tired, middle-aged Matthew Perry revisits his robust teenage self (Zac Efron) and finds it's a wonderful life - proves the durability of the body-swap fantasy.

But 17 Again also showcases the previously unseen acting talents of Efron, the Tigerbeat cover boy best known as the shaggy haircut of the High School Musical series and the pompadour of Hairspray. (His latest coif combines comb-over with the bowl cut, which produces the effect of a freaky friar.)

Much to my surprise, in 17 Again I wasn't conscious of watching Efron at all. I was watching a 37-year-old in the body of a 17-year-old, a father of teenagers flabbergasted at how his kids were acting in school and at how much senior high had changed in 20 years.

While the movie - a little Big, a little Back to the Future, a lot 13 Going on 30 - feels shelf-worn, Efron's performance is fresh. (His quizzical face and unfamiliar body remind me of Steve Martin's performance in All of Me, in which crotchety heiress Lily Tomlin inhabits the body of public-interest lawyer Martin.)

The film opens in 1988, when Mike O'Donnell (Efron), a high school hoops star hoping to be scouted at the Big Game, chooses love over basketball.

Fast-forward 20 years and Mike is now paunchy, Grinchy Matthew Perry, whose life did not work out the way he planned. He is on the brink of a divorce from his high school sweetheart, Scarlet (Leslie Mann), when he falls into a wrinkle in time and reverts to his 17-year-old self, but in 2008 and with the consciousness of a 37-year-old.

Unevenly directed by Burr Steers, who made the fascinating teen dramedy Igby Goes Down, this overlit and underwritten film gets many of its laughs from age-inappropriate encounters. As when the teenage Mike acts like a father to his teenage kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight). As when the strapping, youthful Mike fawns over Scarlet, who can't understand why she is so attracted to a boy her son's age.

This leads to one of the film's squirmworthy moments, when Mike's daughter comes on to the teenage Mike, which in Jason Filardi's rough script is decidedly not handled with the grace of the comparable scene in Back to the Future.

Though the film rests on the enviably sculpted shoulders of the spirited Efron, Thomas Lennon and Melora Hardin provide some comic relief as Mike's nerdy friend and the fetching high school principal on whom he nurses a crush. For me, 17 Again is mildly diverting. For the tweens who are its target audience, Efron's outside shot is a three-pointer.

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Newsday
2.5 stars

Even before the hero of " 17 Again," Mike O'Donnell, magically morphs from aging grouch ( Matthew Perry) into his springy adolescent self ( Zac Efron), you may feel skeptical. Not about the magical part - that's perfectly normal in movies like "Big" and "Freaky Friday." The question is this: If you possessed the sparkly good looks of Efron to begin with, how grouchy could you be?

Plenty, apparently. In 1989, Mike was the star of Hayden High's basketball team and dating the beautiful Scarlett, whom he would soon marry. Make that really soon: Moments before a big game, while a college scout watches from the bleachers, Scarlett reveals she's in a family way. In a moment of truth, Mike tosses away the ball to do the honorable thing.

Twenty years later, Scarlett ( Leslie Mann) wants a divorce. Mike's children, Maggie ( Michelle Trachtenberg) and the younger Alex (Sterling Knight), want nothing to do with him. Equally depressing: Mike is crashing with Ned (Thomas Lennon), the school nerd who became a rich techie.

Let's be honest, fellas: What would you do if you woke up looking like the star of Disney's "High School Musical"? Probably re-lose your virginity and then some. Instead, Mike befriends his own kids, helping Alex make the basketball team and protecting Maggie from an aggressive boyfriend. Director Burr Steers and writer Jason Filardi take the high road, but a few scenes of base hedonism would have been fun.

Efron, as a teen with the brain of a father, ably carries this featherweight movie; he's particularly sweet when wooing the now-older Scarlett (one of several mildly Freudian constructs here). Mike even tries, unsuccessfully, to convince several girls to respect their bodies. "This is some other dad's problem," he mutters.

Another nagging question: Why didn't Mike just play that big game in 1989, become a professional athlete and make Scarlett a wealthy wife?

Ah, the road not taken.

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E! Online
B-


B-

Review in a Hurry: Afraid that pubescent shrieking and swooning will drown out critical plot points of this zany body-swap flick? No worries! 17 Again is essentially a flipbook of Zac Efron pictures with some sound thrown over it.

The Bigger Picture: Zac Efron is violently pretty. To witness this magnificently structured specimen engage in the most mundane activity—tossing his honey-colored hair out of his flirty eyes, reciting dull dialogue in an insipid comedy—is absorbing.

But let's be clear: If it weren't for Efron's freakishly good looks, there'd be few good reasons to face the screen while 17 Again is playing.

The plot is a total afterthought to the star's abs, but let's get into it, for kicks: A magical janitor is about to leap off a bridge. Mike (Matthew Perry as older, bloated Efron), a sad man-child, estranged husband and distant dad, rushes to save the suicidal custodian.

Just as Mike reaches out—the janitor vanishes! I know! So zany! So Mike falls, and as he plummets, he's given the opportunity to make different "life choices" by, you guessed it, being transformed into his 17-year-old self. The movie then becomes 2K9 Marty McFly: Mike tries to change the course of destiny but instead he changes—you ready?—himself.

As if the janitor-cum-spirit-animal gimmick wasn't bizarre enough, the movie gets downright surreal when Efron, perhaps the most famous young star of the moment, tries to act like an ordinary teenage boy. But he seems incapable of spontaneity, as static as the magazine foldouts he's immortalized in. Perhaps then, 17 Again is some high-concept critique on child fame dressed up as throwaway fluff? But I doubt it.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Efron's jeans are tighter than sausage casings.

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Cinema Blend
three out of five stars

For years now we've assumed that Zac Efron is a star, because teen girls love him and his movies make money and, my god, those baby blue eyes. But 17 Again marks the first time that assumption has really been tested, Efron's first starring role and first attempt to open a movie all by himself, swinging hips and basketball skills and floppy hair in tow.

Whether or not 17 Again is a hit, it is proof positive of Efron's starpower, a triple-threat dreamboat for a new generation of squealing girls and their equally smitten moms. The 21-year-old High School Musical star coasts charmingly through this by-the-numbers comedy, helping to gloss over the more awkward sections of the script and even some gaping plot holes. It's not technically a good movie, but when Efron is onscreen working his charm on Leslie Mann or palling around with a geeked-out Thomas Lennon, it's almost possible to forget that.

The movie kicks off with a shirtless Efron shooting hoops, as if reassuring tween girls that, even though he's not in High School Musical anymore, he's still the same Zac you've always known. At this point he's Mike in 1989, a basketball star bound for college ball until his girlfriend Scarlett tells him she's pregnant, and he chooses her and the baby over his career. 20 years later Mike (now Matthew Perry, somehow) and Scarlett (now Leslie Mann) are getting a divorce, and we know Mike is unsatisfied with life because he goes around saying things like "You have to understand I am extremely disappointed with my life." (Writer Jason Falardi seems very fond of telling, not showing). Stopping by the old school to think about the glory days, Mike mentions offhand to a magical janitor (isn't there one in every school?) that he wishes he could do it all over again.

And lo and behold, he turns into Zac Efron! Pretending to be the son of his geeky friend Ned (Thomas Lennon, over the top but hilarious), Mike enrolls in his old school and theoretically starts to fix his own life, but actually just winds up meddling with his kids. His daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) is in love with a mean jock and his son (Sterling Knight) is the school punching bag, so Mike takes it upon himself to be a father to them while also conveniently getting close again to Scarlett, who is fascinated but somehow not concerned by this smooth-talking teenager who looks precisely like her now-missing husband.

There are a lot of small things to enjoy about this section of the film, from the little lectures Mike delivers to who are supposedly his peers to his daughter's attempt to seduce him in a scene that slyly nods to Back to the Future. But given that the point of the movie is for Mike to wind up exactly where he was in the beginning of the film, there's nothing for him to do except gaze longingly at his kids and get all the girls to crush on him. His friend Ned is irritating as he relentlessly woos the school principal (Melora Hardin, doing her Jan from The Office thing), but at least he has goals; Mike may be learning a lot about his kids and his wife, but he never really does develop a personality.

The movie's buoyant comedic tone sometimes seemed strained, tossing in a lightsaber fight and an actual Efron dance number for no real reason other than to keep the audience awake. But some clever zingers and real comedic timing among Mann, Efron and Lennon keeps the whole thing moving well enough, and the serious moments toward the end actually feel earned, if completely expected.

It's inexplicable that 17 Again has such a bad script, given that so many movies have taken basically the exact same formula and become classics. But for what it is, it's more entertaining than it has any right to be, and I don't think I'm just saying that because I was mesmerized by Zac Efron's abs. OK, so maybe I was. But 60% of the audience will be too, and they'll probably have just as much fun as I did seeing it.

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Zac has a knack, but ‘17 Again’ a Big disappointment
C+

In what universe does Zac Efron look like Matthew Perry 20 years after high school?

However, it’s always nice to see a talented young actor carry a burdensome contrivance on his shoulders.

In extreme cases, you get “Big” (1988), thanks to a talent known as Tom Hanks. In less extreme cases, you get “17 Again,” made bearable by Efron and his supporting cast members.


The prospect of another body-switching film had me experiencing 1980s flashbacks. In “17 Again,” Perry is Mike O’Donnell, a suburban husband, dad and pharmaceuticals salesman about to be divorced by wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) because he has acted like a loser ever since he blew the big high-school basketball game because of her (she was his high school sweetheart).

Thanks to the magical intervention of a janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) with a twinkle in his eye, Mike is turned back into his senior-in-high-school self (Efron) and, with the aid of his rich supergeek buddy Ned (Thomas Lennon), re-enrolls in high school as Mike’s little-known “cousin” to help his children.

Mike’s son Alex (Sterling Knight) is being bullied and duct-taped to toilets by his little sister’s evil basketball-player boyfriend Stan (Hunter Parrish). Mike’s daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg), meanwhile, is in danger of losing her virginity to this unspeakable sex-fiend jerk.

Outside of ‘Where did he learn to sink consecutive foul shots like he does in the film?’ I’d like to know how long it takes Efron to do his hair. I’d also like to know from what lexicon of romance-novel names do today’s young actors spring? Sterling Knight? Hunter Parrish? Gadzooks.

But I must admit that Efron’s got game, athletic and actor-wise, and in the film’s big emotional scene, he delivers.

Directed by Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down”), that name thing again, and scripted by Jason Filardi (“Bringing Down the House”), “17 Again” gives Margaret Cho a part as a sex-ed teacher and then gives her no material. Otherwise, the film is a crummy teen programmer full of geek and gay jokes, kicks to the crotch, icky schmaltz and allusions to K-Fed and Vanilla Ice.

Can Mike avoid being passionately kissed by his own daughter? Will Mike have a MILF moment with his soon-to-be ex-wife, who is strangely attracted to the new young man? In one scene, Mike’s geeky friend and Mike’s high school principal (the divine Melora Hardin) begin speaking to each other in Elvish.

Steers and Filardi also have the gall to “quote” Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in one scene.

I sat there thinking: seriously?

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Minneapolis Star Tribune
Movie review: Efron effortlessly charming in '17 Again'
three out of four stars

You needn't be a Zac Efron fan to enjoy the appealing "17 Again." Come to the movie with reservations about his summer-stock acting skills and you may leave impressed with his comedy chops. Is the guy with the Maybelline eyebrows improving, or does the age-reversal movie's lightweight wit make his work seem funnier?

Efron plays Mike O'Donnell, circa 1989. Flashback Mike is a high school basketball star about to be recruited for a college sports career. Mike's a humble hot dog, best friends with the team's nerdy water boy Ned and going steady with Scarlet, the prettiest girl in school. That's the sort of persona Efron knows how to play, a smooth prom king with a heart of gold.

Cut to the present and we meet Mike as he is today: flabby, weary Matthew Perry, Hollywood's poster boy for failed promise. The casting is a clever stroke. The former "Friends" star, once again playing a put-upon good sport, faces his daily hassles with his trademark aggravated smirk. He's disconnected from his kids, losing his marriage, on the outs at work and bunking with Ned, now a tech-geek millionaire who decorates his house like a "Star Wars" set. He'd give anything to start over again, and thanks to a blast of movie magic, he gets to do just that.

Mike returns to high school in the guise of Ned's son and insinuates his way into his kids' lives.

He discovers that distant son Alex is the butt of bullying, and that precious daughter Maggie isn't nearly the innocent girl he thought.

Realizing that he's been a bust as a father and a neglectful husband, he vows to set matters right. He tries to remind Scarlet of why she fell for Mike 20 years earlier, boosts Alex's confidence and schemes to separate Maggie from her obnoxious jock boyfriend. His weapon of choice is his mouth, not his fists -- he's a fast-talking salesman in adult life -- so the school punks routinely beat the living daylights out of him.

The body-switch premise has been done to death, but "17 Again" finds comic Freudian absurdity in Efron's predicament. Scarlet (Leslie Mann) finds this dreamy reincarnation of her schlubby hubby disturbingly hot, and daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) wants to be much more than friends. Her baffled response when he rebuffs her advances ("Are you ... confused?") launches a funny rip session about Efron's metrosexual flair.

Mike sacrifices blood, sweat and a chunk of his sanity to rescue his family. In a parallel story, Ned ("Reno 911's" Thomas Lennon), who exhibits all the warning signs of social leprosy, romances the high school's reserved principal (Melora Hardin of "The Office"), who's keeping a few fangirl secrets of her own. It turns out that knowing "The Lord of the Rings" by heart can lead to some interesting real-life role-playing. Battle on, nerds, victory is within your grasp.

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Denver Post
1.5 stars

When basketball star Mike O'Donnell (charmer Zac Efron) hears unexpected news from his high school sweetheart, he acts like a man. Then he regrets it for the next 20 years.

In the slight (and slightly uncomfortable) "17 Again," an impish janitor gives adult Mike (Matthew Perry), soon- to-be divorced father of two high-school kids, a chance for a do-over.

He jumps at it. Literally. He plunges into a river not unlike George Bailey did 63 years earlier, fishes the fellow out and soon after begins his new wonderful life as high school senior.

Mike commits himself to protecting his kids, now his classmates (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight), from their own mistakes. Naturally, he's attracted to estranged wife Scarlet (Leslie Mann).

Sure, the parent-kid switcheroo's been done: Jodie Foster's "Freaky Friday" and Lindsay Lohan's knockoff; the Kirk Cameron-Dudley Moore fiasco "Like Father Like Son." It's certain to be attempted again.

Burr Steers, eclectic writer-director of the edgy coming-of-age tale "Igby Goes Down" (2000), was an intriguing choice to helm this pop fizzy undertaking. What would happen when those different sensibilities met? Turns out more than a few cougar moments and queasy father-daughter interactions.

The tweaking's intentional. Yet the lessons celebrated are pat and too many logistical bumps skirted. Why doesn't best friend and billionaire nerd Ned recognize Mike?

Still, for those not yet enamored of Efron, his work here might be a turning point. He carries this comedy, smiling and delivering warmth in a way that promises he's here to stay.

Is this revelation enough of a reason to go? Nah. But if you're looking for the performance that might one day be characterized as Efron's embarrassing breakout role, this is a good bet.

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Cleveland.com/Sun News

In the tradition of films similar to "big," "Freaky Friday, "13 Going on 30" and many more, "17 Again" doesn't necessarily give us any groundbreaking achievements in body- and age-switch stories, but it does continue the ascent of the shooting star named Zac Efron.

Efron really will remind everyone of Matthew Perry in playing Mike O'Donnell, a former scholastic superstar who gave up a sure basketball scholarship to marry his high school sweetheart, then pregnant with a daughter. Years later, Mike's wife (Leslie Mann), disenchanted with her husband's uninspired business acumen, is talking divorce, and their two teen kids don't seem to care.

Before he grows up to look like a down-on-his-luck Perry, Efron's Mike opens the movie in full "High School Musical" mode, dancing with cheerleaders prior to the biggest game of his career (yeah, right!). Then, news of his pending fatherhood sends him racing into the arms of his not-so-successful future.

Thankfully, the dreadful start soon gives way to a more wonderful life and Perry magically transforms back into a 17-year-old (Efron again), only with a married father's sensibility. Oh, his full-blown nerd/best friend-turned-millionaire (Thomas Lennon, TV's "Reno 911!") tags along, pretending to be Mike's dad.

The latter gets to enjoy a few funny moments with his own newfound love (Melora Hardin, TV's "The Office," as the equally dorky principal), while young Mike/Efron experiences some interesting interplay with wife/Mann, daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) and son (Sterling Knight).

Though just a tad predictable, certainly nothing in "17 Again" is as complicated as it might sound. Just know that Efron and Perry both somehow get on the identical page of playing the same character, and that director Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down") obviously deserves to helm a much better film.

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