Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Tyler Steelman, Allison Miller, Sterling Knight, Michelle Trachtenberg
Who says you're only young once?
Class of 1989, Mike O'Donnell is a star on the high school basketball court with a college scout in the stands and a bright future in his grasp. But instead, he decides to throw it all away to share his life with his girlfriend Scarlet and the baby he just learned they are expecting. Almost 20 years later, Mike's glory days are decidedly behind him. His marriage to Scarlet has fallen apart, he has been passed over for a promotion at work, his teenage kids think he is a loser, and he has been reduced to crashing with his high school nerd-turned-techno-billionaire best friend Ned. But Mike is given another chance when he is miraculously transformed back to the age of 17. Unfortunately, Mike may look 17 again, but his thirtysomething outlook is totally uncool among the class of 2009. And in trying to recapture his best years, Mike could lose the best things that ever happened to him.
$23.722 million on 3255 screens.
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 102 min.
Release Date: 8/11/2009
• “Zac Goes Back” Featurette
• “Going Back to 17” Featurette
• Trivia Track
• Additional Scenes
• “Breakin’ Character Outtakes”
• “Zac’s Dance Flashback” Featurette
• Digital Copy
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17 Again [Blu-Ray] (2009)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 11, 2009)
Teen idol Zac Efron tries to broaden his cinematic appeal with 2009’s 17 Again. We open in 1989 and meet high school senior Mike O’Donnell (Efron). As the star basketball player, he has a bright future ahead of him, but he gives up that path when he finds out that his girlfriend Scarlett (Allison Miller) is pregnant.
We leap ahead 18 years to meet Mike as a 37-year-old (Matthew Perry). To say the least, his life hasn’t turned out as planned. Though still legally married to Scarlett (Leslie Mann), they’re two weeks from finalizing their divorce, and he lives out of the house. His kids Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight) want virtually nothing to do with him, and he’s stuck in a dead-end job.
Given his current depression and ennui, Mike wishes he could return to a more promising time – say, when he was 17 and BMOC. As he mopes around his old high school, he meets a janitor (Brian Boyle Murray) with special powers. This dude magically sets the clock back 18 years – sort of. Mike remains stuck in the present, but he regresses in age to his 17-year-old form.
Mike looks to his lifelong friend Ned (Thomas Lennon) for assistance, and they establish that the janitor is a “spirit guide”. Under the guise of “Mark”, Ned’s illegitimate son, Mike goes back to high school and decides that his job is to set things right with his family. Maggie dates a jerk and threatens to give up on a promising future to be with him. Alex is a wimp who gets pushed around – usually by Stan (Hunter Parrish), the aforementioned jerk. Mike/Mark works to fix his family and eventually return to his correct age.
Nothing tremendously new comes from the film’s conceit, as 17 fails to veer too far from the Freaky Friday model established decades ago. However, that doesn’t mean a film of this sort can’t deliver a high-quality piece of work; after all, Big hit screens more than a decade after Friday, but it improved on the source and became the best flick in its genre.
In no way does 17 live up to Big, but it offers reasonable entertainment – at least if you can get past some of its illogical moments. Yeah, it sounds nitpicky to worry about that side of things in a movie with a fantasy premise, but internal consistency allows a story like this to fare better, and too many “huh?” moments pop up here.
Most of these relate to the behavior “Mark” demonstrates around his family. “Mark” too often speaks to them ala Mike and shows no recognition that this will seem odd to them. Movies like this always include similar scenes, but this one features more than usual, and they don’t make a lot of sense.
Other flaws occur. Would an aspiring frat boy like Stan go after a smart borderline Goth girl like Maggie? No way – he’d shun her and date the many bimbos who would throw themselves at him. Why does teen Scarlett drop her bombshell on Mike right before the biggest game of his life?
The biggest problem of all relates to the film’s presentation of “Mark”, as he never feels like the same person as Mike. While 37-year-old Mike is a beaten-down schlub, he instantly becomes cool, cocky and confident when he resumes his 17-year-old form. That makes no sense, as younger-looking Mike should carry the baggage of the character’s life. How could he become so self-possessed just because of a physical change?
I’m not sure how of this relates from the script or from Efron’s performance. While I expect it’s a combination of the two, I put most of the responsibility on Efron. He shows some talent in the comedic realm, and he certainly boasts a bubbly charm, but he completely flops when he needs to display character range or a dramatic side. He tries hard to channel Perry but fails miserably, as we see nothing of the sardonic Perry in the cocky Efron.
Even when Efron tries to play frustrated and upset, he still acts like he’s the prom king who’ll soon boff the head cheerleader; he can’t deliver any of the substance the role demands. At no point do we buy Efron as a version of Perry, especially because they bear very little physical resemblance to each other.
Even with all these flaws, however, I must admit 17 delivers good entertainment. I like the way the story twists the Big concept, and a fine supporting cast helps make the experience more enjoyable. In particular, Lennon’s borderline over the top take on nerdy Ned delights; the scenes in which he attempts to romance the high school principal (Melora Hardin) turn into the flick’s most winning.
Mann also delivers a solid performance in a generally thankless role. The almost-ex-wife of the protagonist always threatens to be unsympathetic, and that seems especially true when we know that Mike sacrificed all his hopes and dreams to be with her. Mann ensures that we feel more sympathy for Scarlett than usual, though; she could become an unlikable harpy, but instead she manages to create a real character.
I admit I figured I would think little of 17 Again, but the movie surpassed expectations to a moderate degree. It takes a well-worn formula and gives it a little sparkle. While it does nothing exceptional, it amuses and entertains enough to satisfy.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+
17 Again appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though inconsistent, the visuals usually worked fine.
Sharpness caused some mild concerns. While the movie usually appeared acceptably concise, a few shots looked slightly soft and ill-defined. This wasn’t a massive concern, but it meant that overall clarity was occasionally a bit lackluster. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement or source flaws.
Given its high school setting and fantasy element, I expected a broad palette from 17 Again, and that’s what I got. The colors worked well, as they came across as nicely bright and dynamic. Blacks were nicely deep and firm, and shadows displayed good clarity. In general, this was a decent transfer, but the mild softness left this as a “B” presentation.
I found exactly the kind of audio I expected from this sort of film. 17 Again offered a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. As usual for a romantic comedy, the soundfield maintained an emphasis within the forward spectrum. There I heard good stereo separation to the music and nice delineation for the other elements. Most of the effects tended toward the ambient side of the equation and very little added much pizzazz. Most of the time, the track stayed light and breezy without much substance from the surrounds.
Audio quality appeared to be positive for the most part. Speech sounded crisp and natural, without edginess or concerns related to intelligibility. Music and effects demonstrated fine clarity and they appeared reasonably lively. Music worked best, as that side of things showed nice bass and punch. Overall, the audio of 17 was acceptable and that was about it.
When we move to the set’s extras, we start with a Way Cool Tell-All Trivia Track. In this subtitle commentary, we learn about sets and locations, cast and performances, the story and the film’s development, production design and music, stunts and effects, and various bits of period trivia. A good array of material appears here, as we learn a lot of interesting facts about the flick.
Two featurettes follow. Zac Goes Back runs 12 minutes, 32 seconds and offers remarks from producers Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot, writer Jason Filardi, director Burr Steers, and actors Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, Sterling Knight, Michelle Trachtenberg, Hunter Parrish and Leslie Mann. We learn a bit about the project’s development, cast and performances, Steers’ work on the set, shooting basketball scenes and some dance material.
Some interesting moments emerge, especially when we see Efron’s attempts to channel Perry. However, much of the program sticks with happy talk, so we don’t learn a ton here. It’s a passable featurette but nothing special.
During the three-minute and 17-second Going Back to 17, we hear from Lennon, Efron, Perry, Steers, Trachtenberg, Gibgot, Mann, Filardi, Knight and Parrish. They offer quick thoughts about their high school experiences. Some of this is interesting, but it’s too brief to be meaningful. It’s also weird to hear actors three or four years removed from high school talk about it like it’s ancient history.
Breakin’ Character Outtakes provides a three-minute and 24-second reel. This consists mostly of bloopers, but some alternate lines appear as well. Don’t expect a ton of these; “Outtakes” will appeal most to young girls who want to see Efron giggle and look cute.
Next comes the two-minute and 10-second Zac’s Dance Flashback. It includes remarks from Efron, Shankman, and associate choreographer Zach Woodlee. We see rehearsals for a scene that didn’t make the final cut. Expect a few minor notes but mostly more praise for Efron. (Note that the final scene appears in the next domain.)
13 Additional Scenes fill a total of 16 minutes, five seconds. Given the length of the clips, obviously none of them provide substantial material. However, they do flesh out secondary characters a bit better. They probably wouldn’t have worked well in the final cut, as they’d have slowed down the film’s momentum, but they do make the supporting roles more developed. Oh, and Efron’s female fans will love the one that features him shirtless.
The disc opens with a few ads. We get promos for Blu-ray and Me and Orson Welles. No trailer for 17 Again appears here.
Although it fails to break fresh ground, 17 Again provides a satisfying take on the “body swap” genre. Thanks largely to a good supporting cast and some nice comedic moments, the flick turns into a fairly entertaining experience. The Blu-ray offers pretty positive picture, decent audio, and a smattering of supplements. Neither the disc nor the film excels, but they’re good enough to make this one worth a look.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars
| Number of Votes: 4