Reviewed by Susan Lloyd
"17 Again has many redeeming qualities besides the wisdom of its messages."
In the tradition of “do-over/time
travel/comedy-with-a moral” movies,
New Line Cinema gives us 17 Again starring Zac Efron. New Line has produced
a winner that may at times spin out a little predictably, but it’s
highly entertaining and leaves parents feeling like maybe someone in Hollywood
I had the pleasure of viewing this film with an audience that was about 80% teenage girls. No surprise there. With Zac Efron shouldering the weight of almost every scene, New Line had no trouble garnering an audience. Due to his pretty boy good looks and massive teen/tween appeal, Efron is a bankable Hollywood commodity, but fortunately there’s more to him that just his pretty face. Efron carries the film with an easy charm and energy that suggests he’s going to be a movie staple in romantic comedies for quite some time. And somehow, New Line managed to produce a PG-13 movie that still maintains Efron’s squeaky clean all-American boy image.
The film opens with Efron, who plays the teenage Mike O’Donnell, doing some things we’ve seen him do before. He’s playing basketball (shirtless this time) and dancing with cheerleaders ala High School Musical. But the similarities to HSM end when O’Donnell’s girlfriend shares the news with him that changes his life forever. Viewers are flash forwarded to the present time where it becomes obvious that O’Donnell (played at this point by Matthew Perry) is miserable. His relationship with his wife and kids is horribly estranged, and the only real friend he has left is his best friend from high school, the techie sci-fi nerd Ned Gold. After meeting a mysterious janitor, played sweetly by Brian Doyle, Murray, O’Donnell is given the chance to relive his senior year of high school. All of this happens within the first 10 minutes of the film, and viewers are given just enough information to peak interest without belaboring the sad details of O’Donnell’s life.
While the plot is really nothing new, the messages uncovered within it are. The time transplanted teen O’Donnell, who is in high school but has the benefit of life experience, exposes a bully for what he really is, makes a stand for abstinence that is nearly tear-inducing, and pleads with his female contemporaries to respect themselves so that everyone else will do the same. O’Donnell clearly sees that foolish choices early in life make for some tough cirmstances later on, and some of his advice is well received by his peers. Bravo, Hollywood! How long has it been since advice that leaned toward conservative values wasn’t mocked or passed off as narrow-minded oppression.
Before I make this film sound like an extended infomercial for chaste behavior amongst teenagers, it needs to be said that this is NOT a film intended for children under the age of 11. Teen partying, sexual situations (in several different settings), sex education, and teen pregnancy aren’t just passing moments in the story, and at many points they are what provide the tension for awkward comedic moments. Parents who choose to take their under-thirteens to this movie need to be prepared to have some serious discussions with them about some more mature subjects. Fortunately, the way such subjects are handled in the movie makes it easy for parents to find a launching pad for conversation. Absent from the film, and thankfully so, are references to drug use, excessive profanity, and extended make out sessions.
17 Again has many redeeming qualities besides the wisdom of its messages. The supporting cast is bright, funny, and equally as charming as Mr. Efron. Up and coming actor Sterling Knight (Sunny with a Chance), who plays O’Donnell’s teenage son, has the awkward-but-cute thing nailed, and Leslie Mann (George of the Jungle; Knocked Up) is simply gorgeous while deftly convincing viewers that her broken heart is not beyond being healed. Thomas Lennon (Hancock; I Love You Man) is the perfect comedic partner to Efron’s straight man, and Matthew Perry of Friends fame sets the right tone for the film from the outset. Unfortunately, fans of Perry may be dispappointed with his bookend appearance in the film, and I personally wish we had seen more of this skilled comedic actor. The film moves along at a good pace, never boring us with details and keeping the laughs coming. Cynics may pan the film for its predictability and its generous use of awkward moments due to misplaced attraction, but I didn’t find these elements distracting from the over all great vibe of the film.
I enjoyed 17 Again, maybe more than I thought I would. Although it wasn’t mind blowing or revolutionary, it wasn’t intended to be. My guess is that this movie was designed to be a charming adventure, an opportunity to let our minds wander into the territory of “what if”, and a chance to be reminded that real happiness comes when our focus remains on something other than ourselves.
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Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com