|17 Again (2009)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Brittani Simberg|
|Tuesday, 28 April 2009|
Before I answer that question, let’s examine the vehicle. If your thing when you go to the movies is innovative cutting edge storytelling or in depth examinations of the human psyche, why are you even reading a review of 17 Again? This is a film about a 37 year old guy who is unhappy with his life so a magical janitor turns him back into a 17 year old so he can relive the glory days of high school. If you buy a ticket for that, and aren’t expecting 103 minutes of formula, I don’t know what to tell you. Formulaic films may not add anything to the cinematic language, but they can entertain when done well. Every romantic comedy is a simple formula – boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. It is not whether the couple will find each other in the end but how, that keeps us interested. Fill a predictable, paint by numbers plot with well-rounded engaging characters and fresh screenwriting that provides warm comedy and little surprises along the way, and the audience will walk out smiling. Sometimes you don’t need more than a little escapism on a Saturday night. Happily, 17 Again provides just that.
The basic plot: The year is 1989 and Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) is a high school basketball stud getting ready for the big game. College scouts are in the crowd and tonight is his ticket to the big show. The girlfriend Mike loves dearly chooses the moment right before the starting buzzer to inform him she is in the family way. As a side note, who does that? She couldn’t have waited until after the final buzzer? Torn between what he sees as two futures, Mike drops the ball, literally, walks off the court and kisses the girl.
Fast-forward twenty years. Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) is miserable. He hates his job, is disconnected from his kids and blames his soon to be ex-wife (a pitch-perfect Leslie Mann) for his NBA-less lot in life. He’s living with his best friend, Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon) who provides a great deal of comedy as the ultimate wealthy software designer / fanboy whose home is a shrine to all things geek and pursues the high school principal (The Office’s Melora Hardin) in an endless parade of outrageous outfits (he is, he claims, “peacocking”). Mike goes back to his high school to gaze into the picture of himself in the trophy case and dream of what might have been. Enter the aforementioned magical janitor (Brian Doyle Murray) who is clearly an homage to the angel Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life. Mike gets his wish to be, well, 17 Again, and Zac Efron re-enters, bringing us back to the question on the table.