Wednesday, April 29, 2009

17 Again ***

Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry
Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight

Mike O'Donnell (Perry) is a middle aged pharmaceutical salesman, crashing at his best friend, Ned's (a scene stealing Lennon) house after his wife Scarlet (the always brilliant Mann) asked him for divorce.
His two kids (Trachtenberg and Knight) practically have no communication with him and he finds himself being passed for promotions at the job he hates.
Wallowing in regret and self pity he wishes he could go back in time to fix everything he did wrong and with the help of some movie magic he falls into a river, following a freaky accident and finds himself back in his 17-year-old body.
And only in the movies can Perry become Zac Efron. With his newfound youth he goes back to high school and tries to fix his relationship with his children and tries to get back with his wife leading to all kinds of inappropriate, yet somehow not disturbing, situations that lead to all sorts of comedic twists.
If this sounds too much like an inverted "Big", "13 Going on 30" and at least two dozen TV show premises it's because it completely is, so how do you turn a cliché ridden, predictable film into a successful, entertaining piece of pop culture?
Apparently by hiring Zac Efron in the lead role.
The 21-year-old drives the entire movie counting basically on pure charm and star magnetism. Obviously his presence will attract fans of his previous tween work and screaming schoolgirls (and some grownups who will act like that too), but after a while of just playing it cool Efron unveils layers that show that he can also act!
And he's pretty good at it; very few young actors would be able to convey the sense of loss and regret Efron achieves in a particularly moving scene in a courtroom and then work it like a pro in the dancefloor.
While the filmmakers childishly try to make the most out of his smile and abs, Efron is working on a completely different league.

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