The Story: Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) is a soon to be ex-husband who constantly complains about the life he would have had if he hadn’t married his pregnant high school sweetheart. When Mike attempts to save the life of a mysterious janitor he gets sucked into a vortex that spits him out as the 17-year-old boy he used to be (Zac Efron). Mike sees this as the perfect opportunity to reconnect with his children along with having the life he should have led.
Pros: People can’t expect too much originality from a premise like this, which combines key plot points from Big and 13 Going on 30. That doesn’t mean the movie isn’t a fun comedic romp for the entire family. 17 Again is a light film that emphasizes all the points that these movies make, appreciate your youth and be a kid at heart, but doesn’t pander to either adults or children. The movie has plenty of jokes and humor for adults while not being afraid to go the slapstick route for the young fans. What makes 17 Again more than just a rehash of the two movies mentioned above is that things just seem to be more plausible and humorous in our current age. Sure 13 Going on 30 is just as recent but that was firmly rooted in girl-centric humor, 17 Again seems pretty gender neutral. The humor comes from the situations young Mike finds himself in and how he handles things. A particular scene with teenage Mike giving a speech during a sex-ed class is hilarious because it can connect to teens and adults living today.
Cons: The only major con I saw had to do with how Adult Mike was written. He’s the stereotypical frazzled father/husband who doesn’t spend time with his kids/wife. But on top of that Mike supposedly has spent years stewing about marrying the girl he knocked up. Mike and his wife Scarlet (Leslie Mann) spend a few minutes discussing both sides rationalizations but either way Mike just comes off like a bitter jerk. It really disconnects him from the audience and I really hated him all throughout the movie. The movie also drags a bit once everything starts to wrap up. I don’t know whether it was the divorce proceedings or the overemphasis on the relationship between Ned and the school principal but the last half of the movie really slows down. There are also a few plot holes, mostly involving the ending and how it takes so long for Scarlet to figure out the deal but those are acceptable in such a high concept premise.
Acting: I really wanted to hate Zac Efron but I just couldn’t, the kid has talent. While he isn’t playing the most three dimensional character he just has an effortless feel about him whether he’s playing a teenager or an adult in a teenager’s body. Compared to Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday, Efron just embodies Perry’s character in a way that the previous film didn’t do. We don’t know how Efron would do in a dramatic role yet but in comedy the kid’s gold. His scenes with Leslie Mann are by far the best in the film because the two have a natural chemistry that constantly has them playing off each other. It can be a bit uncomfortable when they flirt but they usually jump right back to comedy to set the tone. Mann doesn’t have a lot of scenes but she’s a natural comic and so pretty as Mike’s wife, it is a bit odd to figure out why Perry doesn’t appreciate her because she comes off so perfect. Thomas Lennon does another fine job in a comedy as Mike’s friend Ned. His love for geekdom can get a bit overbearing but Lennon always brings his A-game and he’s flawless in this. Nicole Sullivan steals the very brief scenes she’s in and I have to give her props for turning a cameo into a hilarious moment with her and Efron. Mike’s two children, played by Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg, are the weakest links. Knight is a good actor but he’s a bit too wimpy against Efron and Trachtenberg phones in her performance. She honestly has no reason to be in this movie and spends the entire film pouting.
Overall: 17 Again has the tendency to recycle old material and can be seen as a bad rip-off of Big but it’s such a delight and has some great jokes. Efron and Mann turn in pitch perfect performances and have wonderful chemistry. This is highly recommended for a night out with the family. I give it a 3/5.