Zac Efron stars in yet another body change/switch comedy in which the protagonist of the story gets the chance to relieve his youth once more or vice versa: someone young wakes up one day in and old(er) body. There’s 13 Going on 30, Big and even Freaky Friday or the forgotten Dudley Moore movie Like Father Like Son fills this mold. So as you might have guessed it: originality is not 17 Again’s strongest point, this movie serves more of a launchpad for the career of Zac Efron as this is his first movie that he is carrying by himself. No Vanessa Hudgens or Nikky Blonski with whom he has to share credits, one look at the poster says it all: Zac Efron is…. 17 Again. Sounds a bit like the marketing of Steven Seagal who also always was something… but at least his titles were masculine…
Masculinity is something you won’t immediately associate with Zac Efron. The opening scene of the movie clearly demonstrates that as form some reason Zac is the best player on the basketball team but just has to dance with the cheerleaders before the game starts. Of course this is done to please every High School Musical fan out there but still… it felt really… wrong. Zac is being scouted and has the possibility to study on a scholarship. But he made his girlfriend pregnant and as a responsible 17 year old he throws his future away to take care of his girlfriend and kid. Fast Forward 20 years where Zac Efron has turned into Matthew Perry (some deception there girls!) and he is in the middle of a divorce with his wife, his promotion is handed to a young girl who worked just two months for the company and his kids dislike him. So life has turned out to be one big suck-fest and Perry wishes to be Zac, eh 17 again. This is when the creepy janitor comes in. You know, like the projectionist from Last Action Hero or Christopher Walken from Click, who works like some kind of magic dude and turns Perry into his 20 year younger version. A talent plastic surgeons all over the world want to master.
Now Zac who’s character’s name is actually Mike O’Donnell gets back into the high school he left 20 years ago and has to find out what his so-called spirit path is. Well, he has to guide his children to a good future while trying to prevent his wife from divorcing him. His son is being bullied by one of the guys on the basketball team who also happens to date his daughter. So he has to educate his son to stand up for himself and has to try to show his daughter that that guy is really no good.
For a PG-13 movie targeted at younger audiences they really have some creepy underlying themes in the movie. Pedophilia (or the better word for this is Ephebophilia), incest, MILF-hunting: it’s all here. But not really in your face. The incest theme is handled more in a back To The Future way only this time it’s father and daughter. Somehow things that should make us laugh, were a bit creepy. Maybe it was the fact that even in a body of a 17 year old Mike kept playing the father figure which should’ve resulted in fun scenes, but seeing Zac Efron preaching abstinence because he’s in the same class his daughter is. The Jonas Brothers would be proud of Zac.
Somehow I liked the subplot of Ned more than the main plot. Ned is the best friend of Mike since high school. Mike always came up for Ned when he was picked on. But Ned has become rich on making software, doesn’t do anything other than playing video games all day and is a fanboy to the extreme sleeping even in a bed resembling a Sand Speeder from Star Wars including Tatooine wallpaper. Ned poses as young Mike’s father and immediately has the hots for the principal. This results in a series of comic scenes in which Ned tries to get the principal on a date.
The movie acknowledges that Efron is the ultimate metrosexual as he basically looks very gay with is sparkling eyes, sculpted hair and tight pants. No wonder a gay friend of my drools over Zac, he’s a gay icon. So it’s fun to see the movie make fun of Zac’s appearance but other than that he’s product-placed as the next Tom Cruise. The movie is a little low on gags that work, as most of the gags do have a creepy unfunny touch to them as they just consist of Zac Efron behaving like a parent. If that’s your thing 17 Again is probably something for you. The movie isn’t as bad as I’ve made it sound and despite its unoriginality it does seem to have a beating heart somewhere but you do have to look for it. It’s a harmless little movie any teenage girl will probably enjoy.