By Sean McBride
Warner Brothers Pictures
Directed by Burr Steers
Starring Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry, Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg
2 1/2 Stars
Most grown up audiences will look at Zac Efron’s new body-swap dramedy, “17 Again,” and think that they’ve seen this story before.
Many times before.
So many times that perhaps the movie should be called, “The Film You’ve Seen 17 Times Before, Again.”
So no points for originality, but it shouldn’t matter because Efron’s core group of fans are probably too young to have seen any of Hollywood’s earlier body-swap films (with the possible exception of “Freaky Friday” and “Big”). Ignorance should pay off for these tweenagers, who will see the remake with fresh eyes and mostly notice the story’s energy, likable stars and family-first message.
“17 Again” begins with Matthew Perry playing Mike, a guy who was the king of his world back in high school, but his grown up life has left him estranged from his wife and unsatisfied with his career. During a visit to his old school, Mike remarks that he wishes for a chance to live his life all over. A little movie magic later, and our hero wakes up in his 17-year-old body (now played by Zac Efron).
After an initial freak out, Mike decides to seize the opportunity to make his life better. Conspiring with his best friend (Thomas Lennon) he re-enrolls in high school and tries to connect with his teenage kids (Michelle Trachtenberg and Sterling Knight). Mike’s ex-wife (Leslie Mann) notices the young boy who looks just like her ex-husband, and contemplates the PG-13 version of a Mrs. Robinson connection with the kid.
The rest is silly comedy and some minor dramatics — exactly what you’d expect. Efron plays the role well, and certainly had the teenage girls in the audience squealing in delight. This is Efron’s first attempt to carry a movie by himself, and if those girls can be believed, he has a fine career ahead of him. Let’s hope for something a bit more original next time, but as for now, “17 Again” will work well enough, but only for those young enough to care about seeing the film.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published Wednesdays and Fridays in “The Port Arthur News.” He can be found weekly on KBCI-TV, KFDM-TV and KOLE Fox 1340 Radio. Additional reviews can be found at www.rottentomatoes.com. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Seanthemovie guy on Twitter.