Young at heart
Body swap narratives have long proved reliable fodder, not just for genre movies but also the comedy; think All of Me, Freaky Friday or, erm, The Hot Chick for examples. Best described as Big in reverse, 17 Again may lack some of the innocent charm of Penny Marshall’s 1988 classic but it’s watchable enough thanks to an affable turn from High School Musical’s Zac Efron.
Efron is Mike O’Donnell, who in the late ‘80s is a teen high school basketball star with a glittering sports career laid out in front of him. Fast forward two decades and Mike has grown up, got married, had kids, separated from his wife and is living with his geeky best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon) – and have never stepped on a professional basketball court. Wishing he had made different choices, and following an encounter with a strange school janitor, the grown up Mike (Matthew Perry) is shocked to find himself back as a 17-year-old with the chance to do it all over again. But he soon realises that you really should be careful what you wish for…
Apart from a few cringe-inducing – and rather inappropriate – moments between the teenage Mike and his grown up wife (the admittedly adorable Leslie Mann) 17 Again is a solid enough example of a teen movie with enough intelligence to appeal to a wider audience. Efron is undeniably charming, displaying a surprising aptitude for comedy underneath that squeaky-clean exterior, while Thomas Lennon is hilarious as the self-made man whose riches haven’t bought him any taste. Indeed, Ned’s burgeoning relationship with high school Principal Masterson (Melora Hardin) is a genuine joy to behold; not least because of his infectious excitement at introducing her to a world of light sabres and plastic Spock ears.
OK, so there’s an obvious and expected morality tale of the importance of family and friends tucked behind all the comedy, but it’s well-executed and doesn’t overpower the narrative. 17 Again may be somewhat derivative in terms of its set-up and execution, but it’s light, breezy and enjoyable enough thanks to the strength of all those on screen. 3 stars
Like the film itself, the bonus materia is as light as a feather. You’ve got a handful of outtakes and unseen footage, plus Zac’s Dance Flashback and trailer. 1 star
Stars Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann
Director Burr Steers
Distributor Entertainment in Video
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Released August 10