Written by Pollo Misterioso
I don’t fully understand the desire to return to high school. I actually enjoyed high school, but that doesn’t mean that I want to re-live being a teenager, it’s just so awkward. But films will continue to be made, all with the premise of returning to the past to change something. 17 Again is no different, although the modern twist on an old story doesn’t make it as enjoyable as I remember.
We begin in 1989 with Mike O’Donnell (the young version played by Zac Efron) shooting hoops, getting ready for the big game that could get him a scholarship to college. When he finds out that his high school girlfriend is pregnant, he walks out of the game and we flash-forward to the present-day Mike (Matthew Perry). Now his life is a mess—no job promotion, on the verge of a divorce and no relationship with his kids. Paying homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, Mike runs into an old janitor that magically transforms him into his 17-year-old self. It is then up to Mike to figure out what he needs to do to transform back.
The modern high school is shown as a breeding ground for disrespectful, sexually overactive teenagers. Not to say that this is not what all high schools are like, but 17 Again chooses not to show anything about going back to high school. Mike doesn’t want to relive high school to change his future; instead he realizes that this is the time to reconnect with his kids and to somehow win his wife back.
It is most humorous when young Mike interacts with his wife (Leslie Mann). She swears that he looks like her husband and the flirtation that plays out is almost uncomfortable but it works. Also, for those Zac Efron fans out there, he even dances and plays basketball in the film. I don’t know if he will ever grow out of this High School Musical role.
The fun of movies like this is to see our character react or interact with his new surroundings. The film fails to capture the heart of being a teenager, only making jokes to how fast their metabolism is and how they can exercise easily. Although young Mike does have an inside view into his kid’s lives, their interaction is very sterile and unbelievable. He coaches his youngest son at basketball, while he still gets to take the glory of being a better player and he preaches to his daughter about making bad choices. If he gets to be 17 again to connect with his kids, the relationships seem forced.
When Mike finds himself back where he started, he realizes that he had made the right choices, he was just absent from most of his life. Now he gets the chance to pay attention. Mike’s inside look into the lives of his kid’s and wife is an interesting twist on an old idea. But the fun of watching films like this is missing because our lead actor isn’t having fun. There is no use in re-living high school for that.
The DVD includes Widescreen and Full-Screen options, along with language choices. Bonus features are not included.