I walked into the Zac Efron high school comedy/squealfest 17 Again thinking that, as a 37-year-old man, I was pretty much as far from the target audience as you could be, an assumption cemented by the shrieks of “Zac!” from the teenage girls around me that started up even before the trailers. But just five seconds into the movie, there’s a shirtless Efron (cue squeals) as 17-year-old high school senior Mike O’Donnell, standing on a basketball court in what we’re told is 1989 and… Hey! I was a 17-year-old senior in 1989! Then we flash-forward to the present, and there’s Matthew Perry as a 37-year-old O’Donnell, married with two kids, looking tired and beaten down by his responsibilities. Hey! I’m a 37-year-old father of two who sometimes feels tired and beaten down by my responsibilities! Am I exactly the target audience of this movie? Is 17 Again my story?
Well, no. Once Perry is supernaturally zapped back into his old body, 17 Again quickly devolves into an undercooked bouillabaisse of every teenage time-travel/body-swap cliché ever thrown onto a movie screen. It’s 13 Going on 30 going on Big going on Freaky Friday going on Back to the Future going on Peggy Sue Got Married. Efron’s easy charm keeps it afloat, but there’s not much to love, with the exception of Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!), as O’Donnell’s billionaire-nerd best friend, and Melora Hardin (The Office), as the school principal, who seem to have been supernaturally zapped in from a different, funnier movie. In the end, though, 17 Again is so fluffy and harmless, if you’re too hard on it, you risk coming across like the cranky old dude in a high school movie. Which, as we’ve established, I apparently am.
So what did you think? Did 17 Again speak to you? If you liked it, what did it for you? If you didn’t, did it feel like a rehash of a bunch of movies you’ve seen before? Read Lisa Schwarzbaum’s take here—and then share your own thoughts below.