17 Again (2009)

Efron playing a high school basketball player? What a shock

In 1989, 17 year-old Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron) learns from his girlfriend Scarlett that she is pregnant during the start of his high school championship basketball game. Moments after the game begins, he abandons the game and goes after Scarlett. Twenty years later, Mike (Matthew Perry) finds his life stalled. Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has separated from him due to his regrets about abandoning college, forcing him to move in with his geeky and wealthy best friend since high school, Ned Gold; he quits his job and his high school-age children Maggie and Alex want nothing to do with him. Later, while visiting his high school to reminisce, an encounter with a mysterious janitor transforms Mike into his 17 year-old self.

Firstly, let me get something out of the way. Yes, Zac Efron is a pretty boy heartthrob who starred in three High School Musical films, and from hearing that sentence alone, the presumptions of him is that he merely gets by on his looks, possessing no acting talent whatsoever, just like Taylor Lautner. But after seeing this film, it is pretty clear that Efron does actually possess some acting talent.

Mike is the character who made a selfless and life-changing decision during his teen years, abandoning his dreams of playing professional Basketball and going to college in order to stay with his high-school love and do right by her and their child. 20 years later, he's embittered, cynical and regretful over the choice he made, wondering that eternal question we've each asked in our lives, "What If?", and Matthew Perry embodies this really well within his portrayal, managing to play the embittered and cynical role whilst never straying into jerk territory.

Efron does well as a 17 year old version of Matthew Perry, managing to convince as a man stuck in a teenage body as he acts fatherly towards his children and gives off a sense that he's wise beyond his year. He also does well in giving off a sense that his character is out of touch with the modern world, as he goes under the typical belief that teens respond well to rapper stereotypes.

Efron's beauty can stop objects in mid-air, like in Zoolander

The basic outline of the film is very predictable and not really original, but that doesn't make the entire film to be predictable. The adverts I saw had me believing it'd be focused upon Mike reliving his glory days only to discover it's not all he thought it was cracked up to be, so I was pleasantly surprised when the film focused upon Mike helping his son become popular and get the girl and his daughter not date a total dick and throw away her life. This film also boasts what i'd call the craziest use of near-incest I've seen since Back to the Future. The dialogue rarely manages to be above average, but it can manage to be quite funny at times.

Mike's best friend, Ned, is pretty much nothing more than an outdated geek stereotype who plays the too obvious geek references too much to try and sell himself as an actual geek, but just leaves the audience doubting that he's actually seen any of the films he references and just googled the basics of them. Also, he comes across as too cartoony a character for me to actually take him seriously or really care about him, and it doesn't help how he and a newly rejuvenated Mike have an over the top fight that's just a waste of time. Despite all of the characters problems, I did like the friendship between Mike and Ned, it felt sincere and genuine.

17 Again is a typically predictable tale about a man returning to his youthful self that manages to be humorous, enjoyable fun, thanks to a likable cast and writing that isn't too shabby. It's worth a watch just to prove that Zac Efron is able to act, but nothing i'd suggest to rush out and see.