When this film came out I had no desire to see it. I thought it looked like a repeat of “Big” mixed with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” only lame and for tweeny boppers. I will be the first to admit I was wrong, this movie is a cocktail of both those films, but keeps things fresh and has a hell of a lot of laugh out loud moments. I typically shy away from the more “family friendly” films that come out because they have a tendency to talk down to the audience or over-sentimentalize things, but in my opinion “17 Again” is a comedy first, family film second. There are enough nerd humor, “adult-themed” jokes, and snappy dialogue to keep even the most avid naysayer smiling throughout. More after the jump:
The story is about Mike O’Donnell (played by Matthew Perry) who back in high school was going to be the next big basketball star, until the night of the championship game when his girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant and he gives up his dream of basketball to pursue his dream of having a family. Cut to present day where Mike is now an unhappy father of two teenage kids he can’t connect with and a wife Scarlet (played by Leslie Mann, who I adore) who wants a divorce. Mike blames everyone but himself for his failures and is really at the end of his rope, when he meets a janitor that looks like Santa Claus in overalls who through a bit of unexplained magic transforms Mike back to a 17 year old boy again (cue Zac Efron). Mike is given a second chance, but he soon realizes that it’s not about basketball; it’s a second chance to get his family back. The rest of the film follows the hilarious exploits and awkwardness of being in school with your son and daughter, while living with your nerd kind best friend Ned (the uber hilarious Tom Lennon) who is pretending to be your dad while trying to woo the principal, and all the other ridiculous scenarios that transpire. The pace is snappy, the characters endearing, and the humor genuinely funny with none of the grown moments that family films often elicit when the bar is lowered so kids can understand the jokes.
I haven’t seen much of Zac Efron as an actor. I’ve seen a lot of him as a “Teen Beat” cover model and MTV Movie Awards favorite, but none of his actual work. I’m not exactly the demographic for High School Musical 1, 2, or 3 and possibly there may have been a twinge of jealousy for just how much the ladies love Zac. After watching this film, I can see why he’s the next big thing (in a purely hetero way). He’s really frickin’ talented. The guy can bust a move (of course there’s a dance number to appease his Disney fans) and bust a few tears in the more heartfelt scenes. The film really showcases his comedic timing and charisma to the maximum. When Zac switches into father mode around his children (that are his same age) the juxtaposition is hysterical. His pro-abstinence speech in health class or when he tells off the school douche bag are great moments. Zac proves he can carry a movie… and my girlfriend thinks he’s dreamy.
One of my favorite things about this film is all the unexpected cameos from comedians. Jim Gaffigan plays the coach, Margaret Cho the sex ed teacher, Nicole Sullivan the drunk friend of Scarlet, Melora Hardin (Jan from “The Office) as Principal Masterson, and the man who steals the show Thomas Lennon as the grown-up version of Mike’s geeked out BFF, Ned. From the moment Mr. Lennon comes on the screen I was laughing so hard I missed several lines of dialogue. He’s first introduced wearing Spock ears sitting in a bath robe munching down like an animal on Cap N’ Crunch with a childish smile across his face. Ned is now rich from creating anti-virus software and spends all his money on Comic-Con-esque paraphernalia. He sleeps in a Landcruiser bed from Star Wars and in a great fight scene when he mistakes young Mike for a burglar he uses every weapon he can get his hands on to defend his lair; from a mace, to broad swords, an axe and finally light sabers. His scenes with the Principal as he tries more and more to win her over by peacocking and other ridiculous measure are outstanding. I don’t want to give away too much of the funny, just trust me, Thomas Lennon is stellar in this film and worth the price of admission alone.
A new take on a familiar story, a charming leading man, a hysterical best friend, and some really great supporting characters along with a script that never panders to the audience and doesn’t dip into cheeseball-ville too much = a great movie that the kids and adults, girlfriends and boyfriends will all get a kick out of. I highly recommend this film for a night of good ol’ fashioned clean fun.
This is my only gripe, where the hell are the features? There is literally nothing and I’m sure there were some awesome improv moments and gag reel footage they could have added to this disc. Bummer