Sunday, January 26, 2014

17 Again (2009) [PG-13] ***+

Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) is married, with two teenage children, and a job in pharmaceuticals marketing. Unfortunately his life is crumbling around him. His wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has kicked him out, and he's crashing with his nerdy-but-wealthy best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon). His relationships with his son Alex (Sterling Knight) and his daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) are non-existent, and he's just been passed over for the regional marketing manager position he coveted.

From the depths of his self-pity and self-loathing, Mike makes a nostalgic, late-night visit to his old high school where he relives old memories; he was a popular senior, a basketball star, and was looking forward to a college basketball scholarship. But then Scarlett informed him that she was pregnant (with daughter Maggie). Mike gave up his college hoop dreams, and his life went downhill from there. At the high school, Mike shares his memories with the janitor, and later that same night he spies the same man about to jump off a bridge into a cold, black river. As Mike desperately tries to stop him, the man vanishes. Mike falls into the river and emerges from the water as his 17-year-old self (played by Zac Efron). After convincing Ned that he is indeed Mike, he realizes that he has been given a great opportunity for a do-over, and he decides to go back to high school as Mark with Ned in the role of his father. Mike hopes to correct some bad decisions he made, but to a teenager with an adult mind, high school presents some special challenges. He tries to give fatherly advice to Maggie, and encourage Alex in his own hoop dreams. Mike also rediscovers what it was about Scarlett that made him fall in love with her. Ultimately Mike realizes he just never appreciated the life he had.

Unfortunately, the trapped in the wrong body comedy has been done so many times before that this version feels highly derivative, with recognizable elements from such films as BigThe Family ManDisney's:The Kid, and Peggy Sue Got Married. There's little romantic chemistry between Matthew Perry and Leslie Mann, and almost no screen time devoted to the earlier high school relationship between teenage Mike (Zac Efron) and teenage Scarlett (Allison Miller). And Ned's strange lust for the high school principal (played by Melora Hardin) is more embarrassing than amusing. So the major flaw in this film is the boring, amateurish screenplay. In addition, while Zac Efron may be a fine, young actor, at 21 years of age he's just not capable of carrying a film. If you're a Zac Efron fan, you will likely enjoy this lightweight comedy; others should probably pass. 

Labels: comedy, drama, fantasy, high school, romance, space-time, teenager   
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 48/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=54, viewers=72)    

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