I don’t know what to make of 17 Again. It’s 13 x 30 divided by 18 Again, which is to say it’s such a mess of inappropriate and incompetent elements, it’s just shocking that it got this far.
Review: 17 Again
The whole film is predicated on a character who’s big regret is the only responsible decision he’s ever made. Yeah, if only he hadn’t taken care of the high school girl he knocked up, everything would have worked out better for him. That’s so wrong I can’t believe it got through script development. There are all sorts of fluffy, silly reasons why a guy would want to be young again. This is just unpalatable.
It doesn’t even become a movie until Matthew Perry shows up. The opening is sweaty Zac Efron playing topless basketball, then he dances with the cheerleaders. That’s not a movie, it’s a show. Then the film stock changes when his world changes and that’s going to blow some little kid’s mind.
Then it becomes apparent that there are no jokes in the movie. He’s unhappy with his family and career, but not in a funny way. He becomes a teen again, but not in a funny way. Funny stuff doesn’t happen once he’s a teen. They actually add a quirky best friend who’s obsessed with sci-fi and fantasy memorabilia to provide humor. That’s not funny either but it is an actual joke. I mean, caricature is a form of humor, good or bad. Since there are no jokes about the premise of the movie, they added a comedy subplot.
The lines are all straight talk. Nobody’s playing words or making ironic points. They’re just talking about their issues. It feels like somebody wanted to explore dark teen violence and sex and bad decisions and immaturity. Then that person got stuck with a body swapping comedy.
We don’t even see what led this guy to go from dreamy Zac Efron to bitter old Matthew Perry. They say he quits everything he starts, but we don’t see him bail out. He does sound like a d*ck when you hear about all the things he neglected.
There’s no conflict that arises out of being an adult in a teen’s body. His maturity doesn’t create any awkwardness around the kids, because they all think he’s so dreamy anyway. There’s one scene where he’s out of touch with fashion but it’s not funny and he’s never out of touch again. Not that I want to see a movie about how crazy all these blackberries and iPods are, but there should be some point where either he rocks the teen world with his uncharacteristic abilities or gets schooled for his lack thereof.
Humiliating the bully is better than beating him up, but it’s not funny. And one-liners about Afghanistan, that’s light and humorous. He gives an abstinence speech because his kids are in the class. That’s uncharacteristic of a kid, but I don’t believe a real adult would say that either.
Now Zac Efron is definitely a star. He has moves and grace and presence. He’s just not given anything funny to perform. Girls going dreamboat over the new guy isn’t a joke. That’s reality, not comedy.
By the way, none of this ever addresses his failures in life either. He wants to go back to 17 to make better decisions and have a better life. Then he gets there and just hangs out with his kids. Now if the point is he learns to be a better dad (which is the plot of Vice Versa), that’s certainly not how it started off. It started off as a regretful life, like Mr. Destiny.
There’s a movie to be had there. Have him learn that his life was just fine the way it is. That seems to be what they always learn. Or have him really make things different for himself. At least DO something, don’t just hang out in high school.