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17 Again (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 10 August 2009
ImageDisney does it again.  They have perpetuated a teen into stardom.  Like many teenage girls before him, Zac Efron has benefitted greatly from Disney's reach in the entertainment.  Now teamed up with New Line, Efron gets his first, okay well second, serious film role.  Having already appeared in the sensation feature film version of the Broadway musical, "Hairspray," Efron becomes king of the mountain in "17 Again."

Efron doesn't leave the comfort of his "High School Musical" scene behind for this film, just as his fellow HSM co-star Vanessa Hudgens isn't leaving the role behind for her part in "Bandslam."  The film still has plenty of basketball, but thankfully no singing.  Sorry Zac.  However, the teenage girls will get plenty of eye candy time with Zac in this film, as he is the major star in nearly every scene.

"17 Again" is loosely based on the 1988 film, "18 Again" starring George Burns.  The film is actually closer in content to "Mr. Destiny" with Jim Belushi.  In the film, Mike O'Donnell (Efron [Teen] Matthew Perry [Adult]) is a hotshot high school basketball player.  In 1989, right before the biggest game, one that will decide his future, his girlfriend, Scarlett (Leslie Mann [Adult]) informs him that she is pregnant.  This completely throws Mike for a loop, and after an intense slow motion sequence, Mike walks off the court, making his decision to stick with Scarlett.

20 years later we find that Mike has been kicked out by his wife, Scarlett, and his two kids (Maggie: Michelle Trachtenberg and Alex: Sterling Knight) want nothing to do with them.  When Mike is passed over for promotion after 16 years with the company, he quits.  Roaming the halls of yesteryear, his high school alma mater, Mike bumps into a mysterious janitor, who is the same type of being that Michael Caine played as the bartender in "Mr. Destiny."  The janitor is destiny.  After longing to be 17 again, Mike falls into a swirling vortex that puts his adult mind in the body of his 17 year-old self.

After trying convince his best friend, Ned (Thomas Lennon) that is really him, Mike longs to find an answer to what has happened.  His dorky friend helps guide him to the answer by using his knowledge of the fantasy realm and suggesting that he has been visited by a spirit guide.  When Mike returns to the school to find the janitor, he thinks he finds the answer, that he must go back to high school and join the basketball team once again.

Along Mike's journey he begins to realize that he is there to help set his children on a better path.  His daughter is dating the high school jerk jock, and Mike worries that she is going to end up pregnant like her mother.  Meanwhile, Mike's son Alex is the school joke, always being picked on.  He is not the suave character that his father was in high school.  Mike takes it upon himself, in a very creepy manner, to help his kids realize that there is life after high school. At the same time, Mike hangs around his old home with son and wife.  There are some creepy moments between Efron and Mann that jolt you from the movie experience.  Of course we are all just waiting for the moment that she realizes that this young Mark Gold (Efron) is really her transformed husband.  However, blinding by reality, she just finds the resemblance creepy.  So, along the way Mike comes to realize that he lost the one best thing in his life and that that is why he needed this spirit guide.  Unfortunately, there is no resolution scene between Efron as Mike and Mann.  Inside, Efron swims back through the vortex and emerges as Perry just in time for Mann to find him all grown up again.  Nevertheless, it is unspoken the notion that both understand what had happened.  The ending is rather trite and also incomplete.  We don't get any closer with Mike's kids or to decent extent the spirit guide.  We get to become our own filmmakers and create the ending that we want.

The acting in this film is better than I would have expected.  Thomas Lennon is always hilarious, as is Leslie Mann.  Efron does a commendable job, but doesn't quite move away from the High School Musical phase that I would have liked him to do.  Little Miss Trachtenberg returns from the dead, not looking like she has aged one bit from the closing of her role as Dawn on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

New Line Cinema has presented this Blu-ray with a VC-1 encode and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the video transfer of this film.  Many brand new films released on Blu-ray don't tend to turn out all that well.  "17 Again" has pop and pizzazz.  The colors are terrific.  They are pushed a little toward oversaturation, but it is still a very pleasing image.  Black levels are excellent and constant.  Details are very smooth and consistent.  It has been a while since I have watched a Blu-ray disc that contains such great detail from scene to scene.  Normally I watch the details go from good to bad to good again.  In this transfer the details are always well defined.  There is also no problem with shadow delineation.  Every costume and landscape contains clear shadow separation, while details remain visible.  There is a very fine layer of grain in the image, which is neither problematic nor distracting.  In fact, you probably won't even it see it unless you use a large screen projector.  The only grip I have with the transfer is that darn edge enhancement.  Will it is not present in every scene it is noticeable.  Edges around costumes have a bit of a fuzzy glow.  Nevertheless, this is one heck of a Blu-ray video transfer.

While the video transfer is striking, the audio is a bit more on the same lines as all the rest of this type of genre's audio tracks.  The surrounds don't contain a ton of discreet ambience, but there is some in most every scene.  However, several of the party sequences could have used more.  The music track contains some great LFE channel usage, as does the swallowing vortex sequences.  The balance of the mix is off a bit, but this is not likely a transfer issue, but rather an original mix issue.  Envelopment is terrific nearly throughout the film.  The dynamics are better than most in this genre, however the balance issue comes into play here in that the music score tends to get lost among the other aspects in the audio track.  Clarity of the dialogue is impeccable, which is most appreciated.  And unlike most Blu-rays from this studio the disc's audio track is mastered at the right level.  My only other complaint with this track is that directionality is off in several of the sequences.  When combined with the balance issue and lack of some ambience at times, I can't quite give this audio track the 4.5/5 star rating that I would have liked to.  Nevertheless, this is a superb audio track.

Unfortunately, as good as the video and audio transfers are, the supplemental package is not the best in the bunch.  Everything on the Blu-ray is exclusive to the Blu-ray release.  Apparently, there isn't much of anything on the standard DVD release.  Still, what is on the Blu-ray is slim.  First, "Zac Goes Back" is a brief segment introducing Efron.  "Going Back to 17" is another short segment that has cast members talking about their high school days.  There is a trivia track with production information.  Also, while not written on the package the Blu-ray also contains; deleted scenes, outtakes and a dance segment.  The package also contains a Digital Copy disc.  The Digital Copy disc also contains the standard DVD version of the movie for standalone players.  To clarify, the package comes with three versions of the movie on two discs.

Strangely, several of the more interesting special features are only available via BD-Live functionality.  As they have not been activated as of yet I can only let you know what the special features are on the surface.  However, the future presence of these special features has been taken into account for the rating.  Frankly, I would much have preferred that the studio released the film on a BD-50 disc and included these BD-Live bonus features directly on the disc.

Via BD-Live there promises to be a Zac Efron commentary track; "Tom Lennon and Melora Hardin - Unfiltered: Two Comedic Improv Masters Come Together" and "Zac Attacks: Mike and Ned's Hilarious Battle with Medieval Science-Fiction Weapons."

"17 Again" is a cute movie.  While it leaves a lot to be desired in the end, the comedic performances by Lennon, Mann and Hardin are terrific.  While the film is predictable, as we have all seen this type of story before, it is still nice to watch and listen to great transfers.  I recommend adding this Blu-ray disc to your collection.

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