Review by Jack Foley
CONTRARY to widespread expectation, Zac Efron star vehicle 17 Again is not that bad. In fact, it’s actually quite enjoyable thanks largely to the charisma of its star man, some nice supporting performances and the presence of a director who boasts a decidedly indie sensibility.
Burr Steers may be best known for the rom-com How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, but he made his debut with the brilliant indie flick Igby Goes Down and that darker, more carefree spirit is often in evidence here.
17 Again basically follows Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a former high school star pupil who walked out on a basketball scholarship in favour of marrying his pregnant high school sweetheart.
Years later, finds life hasn’t turned out the way he expected (he’s facing divorce and his kids don’t want to know), O’Donnell yearns for the chance for a second chance.
But when he’s magically transformed back to the age of 17 again (and played by Efron), he suddenly finds himself facing the unexpected chance to put things right… so long as he can act his age and prevent his own daughter from developing a crush on him!
Steers’ film may be as mainstream and crowd-pleasing as they come, but it also boasts a feel-good quality that’s difficult to avoid giving into.
Yes, there’s plenty to please the teenage Efron fans (including the pin-up star topless) and the screenplay isn’t without its juvenile moments (some of which are cringe-inducingly bad).
But it has also some pleasingly grown-up ones, too, as well as some icky ones.
Efron handles the emotional arcs well and is effortlessly charismatic, but he’s strongly supported by Perry – who isn’t given enough to do – and the excellent Leslie Man (brilliant as O’Donnell’s somewhat confused wife).
And while early comparisons to the High School Musical franchise are sure to stem from scenes involving Efron’s character playing basketball and even performing a song and dance routine, it’s very much a smoke-screen to get the fanbase in before proving to them that there’s much more to Efron than meets the eye.
17 Again isn’t a complete image make-over and doesn’t take too many risks, but it does leave you with a big sloppy grin on your face. In truth, there’s a surprising amount to like.
Running time: 100mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 10, 2009