Cast: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry
Direction: Burr Steers
Borrowing its central conceit from the similarly-themed but far superior Tom Hanks-starrer Big, this week's 17 Again stars Zac Efron as Mike O'Donnell, a high-school basketball star who gives up a college sports scholarship in order to marry his pregnant girlfriend.
Fast forward to 20 years later and Mike has matured, rather unconvincingly, into Matthew Perry. This older Mike is not a happy fellow. His wife is divorcing him, his kids don't hide their contempt for him, and he just lost a job promotion. Can you really blame him for wishing he could return to his glorious youth and do things differently?
The body swap formula is an old one in Hollywood and when it's done smartly it works. This film however decides to put a spin on the old recipe. So while Mike does get a chance to turn 17 again and go back to high school, he doesn't actually travel back 20 years into his past, he becomes himself trapped inside his own 17-year-old body and it's all happening in the now. So he's got the same problems, the same wife, the same kids. Just that he's 17 and he looks gorgeous again.
This premise allows for a bunch of juvenile jokes including one particularly sick one involving his own daughter hitting on him. Some of the best laughs in this film are provided by the character playing Mike's best friend, the nerdy Star Wars-obsessed Ned who agrees to go along as his dad to have him admitted into high school, and ends up falling for the headmistress.
17 Again relies squarely on the charm of its lead star Zac Efron who has a likeable presence, but isn't such a good actor that he can make mediocre material like this work. Still I suspect it'll be a thumbs-up from his fan base of pre-pubescent girls who've lapped up all those High School Musical movies.
For my part I'm going with two out of five and an average rating for 17 Again. It's an easy watch if you have nothing better to do.
Rating: 2 / 5 (Average)