OK so this is what you do: first you count your blessings; then you go to see this movie; and then count your blessings again.
After the theatrical disappointments that Hollywood put out in the past few weeks, this movie is just what the doctor ordered. “17 Again” is a great feel good movie; the kind that has audiences cheering and clapping in the theater (teenagers to boot) It is well acted, well written and well directed. Did I mention the writing? You will be laughing a lot and out loud. Great job. The movie’s writer, Jason Filardi, managed to do something that up to now may have been considered nary impossible; teach tanagers morality and life lessons without being boring or tedious. Bravo!
Veteran director Burr Steers needs no introduction. While some directors might let down their guard when directing a “light comedy,” Mr. Steers has too much self-respect and so much passion for making movies that he devotes his full talents to anything he does, be it ground breakers such as “Reservoir Dogs” or the era-defining “Last Days of Disco” (or for that matter, the instant classic “17 Again”). The movie could have so easily slipped into a boring corny formula vehicle for Zack Efron – that it didn’t is a credit to Mr Steers.
Another mark of a great director is his ability to impart his vision to his actors. Burr Steers does just that and the movies all-star cast responds as true professionals.
Zack Efron has had a very busy young career, most notably with the hugely popular “High School Musical” movies and a long list of appearances on TV shows. He is the star of the movie and the the built-in teen magnet that the producers are counting on to bring in the core audience. His acting credentials will be further enhanced by his performance in this movie.
The supporting cast, drawn from actors with a lot of television acting experience, is equally talented and equally professional . Thomas Lennon as Ned Gold, Zack Efron’s sidekick and best friend, is perhaps one of the most underrated comedic actors of our time. It may seem silly to say that an actor with such a resume is still undiscovered, but I feel that given the right vehicles he can possibly rival great comedians such as Jim Carrrey, sans the overacting.
The rest of the cast includes Sterling Knight as Michael O”Donnell’s (Zack Effron) son , Michelle Trachtenberg as his daughter and Matthew Perry as the thirty-eight year old O’Donnell. And, of course, what good would a “high school movie” be without a bevy of beauties, including Allison Miller as a young would be Mrs. O’Donnell, Katherina Graham , Tiya Sircar , Melora Hardin and Melissa Ordway?
I try to give away as little as possible but if you don’t want to know the plot, just skip the blue font.
Thirty seven year old ex-high school, jock Michael O’Donnell is experiencing one heck of the wrong kind of a mid-life crisis. His kids don’t want to know him. His wife wants a divorce, and he is being passed over for a job promotion in favor of a really long pair of legs attached to the company’s newest bimbo. Seeking some respite from this reality, he heads to his former high school’s trophy case to reminisce about his golden days – a habit which seemingly helped create his current crisis. As a high school star he was heading for a collegiate basketball scholarship when life throws him curve ball in the form a pregnant girlfriend. Michael chooses marriage and raising a family over basketball stardom and, as the years pass and life grinds down to what he views as insurmountable disappointments, he regrets more and more his decision. At this crucial point an angelical janitor offers him a second chance to be “17 again” and see if he would make the same choices.
I am flabbergasted that Hollywood made such a movie. There is so much to like in it and so many reasons to support it that I am certain that I will miss quite a lot. For starters the movie’s basic premise is that choosing life and a family over death and possible material riches is much more rewarding and fulfilling even if at times we don’t recognize it. From there, other subjects that Hollywood usually belittles such as abstinence, self-respect and fidelity are treated with the attention and importance that they deserve. And it works! Again – there were teenagers cheering and clapping throughout the movie in the very urban theater where I went to see it.
Please go see this movie!