Screenwriter: Jason Filardi
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Michelle Trachtenberg, Thomas Lennon, Sterling Knight, Melora Hardin
Running time: 100 mins
Not since the days of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic has one actor managed to whip up so much frenzy among the nation’s teenage girls. Quite fitting really, considering that Zac Efron frequently cites DiCaprio’s illustrious movie career as inspiration for his own. The difference is, that by the time DiCaprio starred in Titanic he had already garnered one Oscar nomination and starred in over ten movies, while Efron has built his reputation solely on the basis of a Disney made-for-television film series. Not that it’s a bad thing - in fact, last year’s High School Musical 3 proved that Efron had the box office pulling power to generate over £170 million of revenue worldwide. But, without an established franchise behind him, can he convince outside of his comfort zone?
Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry/Zac Efron) is facing a midlife crisis – at 37 years old, he’s stuck in a dead-end job as a pharmaceutical salesman, estranged from his wife (Leslie Mann), out-of-touch with his two teenage kids and yearning for his glory days as a high-school stud with a promising basketball career. As luck would have it, he stumbles across a mysterious janitor who appears to know exactly how he's feeling and one quick, painless rain storm later, he wakes up to find himself aged 17 again, with the chance to relive his life.
Piece of cake, right? Wrong. Mike soon learns that his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) is dating the school bully, who is in turn tormenting his son (Sterling Knight). Not only that, but as the new kid, he's back at the bottom of the school pecking order and has no idea how to cope with the teens of today. Okay, so the story is hardly ground-breaking in its originality, but what makes 17 Again stand out is Efron himself, who exhibits that indefinable ‘It’ factor and displays a surprising knack for physical comedy.
Exuding charm and likeability, he shines in his ability to tackle sweet fatherly talks with his unsuspecting children, while also trying to reconnect with his wife and dodge the inappropriate advances of his underage classmates. Expect moral messages and soppy monologues aplenty, but a witty script and some hilarious set pieces mean the tried-and-trusted theme of not taking life for granted comes across as suitably refreshed and modern.
Let's face it, for someone who wants to break free of the mould, Efron is hardly stretching himself here - in fact, he seems more than happy to play up to his hardcore fan-base. But, the old mantra of 'If it works, don't fix it' certainly applies and without a doubt, this is his movie. Younger fans of HSM should be warned that 17 Again marks a more mature Efron-outing, as evidenced by the themes of teenage pregnancy and high-school sex, but the film never goes too far beyond the sensibilities of Efron's target audience and the strong moral themes are always lurking in the background.
Mentioning the lack of realism seems pretty redundant in light of the overall storyline, and in the end it doesn’t really matter as the film manages to charm with an appropriate balance of the silly and the heartwarming. Cringeworthy? Yes. Predictable? Absolutely. But, it's also a whole lot of fun and has more than enough laugh out loud moments to keep you satisfied, making for perfect Bank Holiday viewing and you'll be hard pressed not to find yourself leaving the cinema with a warm, fuzzy glow.
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