Reel Shorts | 17 Again

17 04 2009

With the cinematic skills of a hip-hop DJ, director Burr Steers borrows plot-lines from several prominent films in crafting”17 Again.” Nevertheless the delightful tale succeeds largely because of the “cavity cute” performance from it’s star, the adorable Zac Efron.”

The story begins in 1989 with basketball star, Mike O’Donnell preparing for one of the most important games of his life. With a potential scholarship offer from an eager scout in the stands, the only thing Mike needs to do is lead his team to victory. But fate had other plans as the teen makes a fateful decision that leads him to a life of mediocrity.

Fast forward to the present and Mike (Matthew Perry) is separated from his beautiful wife, Scarlett (Leslie Mann) and their two children and living with his nerdy, millionaire high school pal, Ned (Thomas Lennon) in his ultimate geek pad. Passed over for a major promotion after 16 years on the job by a junior associate and facing divorce from his wife, Mike gets an unlikely second chance to do it all again. Soon, he (Zac Efron) has his personal “It’s A Wonderful Life” transformation moment and wakes up “17 Again.”

Much like an anti-Tom Hanks in “Big,” Efron has to once again navigate one of the most painful times of his life – high school. There he discovers that his daughter has fallen for the school jerk while his son is being taped to toilets by school bullies. If his new life isn’t stressful enough, he begins spending time with his wife as she fulfills her dream which leads the formerly disgruntled husband to appreciate his old “wonderful life.”

While Efron tries to figure out his “spiritual footsteps,” much of the film’s comedy relief comes from the nerdy Ned who aggressively pursues the school’s attractive principal, Jane Masterson (Melora Hardin). Using every tacky trick in his imaginative arsenal, Ned ultimately discovers that being himself is more than enough for him to find love.

In addition to the abovementioned films, screenwriter Jason Filardi’s script also incorporates elements of “13 Going On 30” as well as “Back to the Future.” But the best thing this film has going for it is winningly effective performance from young Efron. Whether showing off his hoop skills, getting his dance on with the cheerleaders or simply spending quality time with “his children,” Efron nearly hits each note perfectly elevating what easily could have been just another forgettable comedy into a charming, sweet story.

Steers also benefits from solid supporting performances from the ever-clever Mann as well as the elvish-loving couple of Lennon and Hardin. They say the second time around is so much better and judging from all of the fun that Efron has you would think that many filmgoers could only wish that they could go back and do it all again!

Grade: B-




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