When trailers for 17 Again dropped, it was obvious the film would pull from so many other films that had followed in its place. While it no doubt immediately reminded viewers of the Tom Hanks smash Big, the two films are wildly different…in plot, at least. Still, other films have used this concept to a great extent before, so it’s unfair to chalk this film up to being entirely unoriginal. It seemed audiences didn’t really mind either; despite mediocre reviews, 17 Again went on to take in nearly $135 million worldwide.
If you somehow had the chance, would you do your life over? Thirtysomething Mike O’Donnell would. Then one mysteriously magical moment, Mike gets his chance. He’s suddenly back at Hayden High where he’s the star of the basketball team, a total hottie, and a classmate to his own teenage kids…which gives Mike a chance to go from not-so-good dad to really cool friend. Zac Efron (Hairspray, the High School Musical movies) and Matthew Perry (Friends) are 17 Again and fabulously funny as the younger and older Mike in a good-time time-warp comedy that proves the best year of your life is the one you’re living right now.
I went into this film fully expecting some kind of poorly hashed out story and cheesy family values smashed into my face and…well, that’s really what you get. It’s a “feel good” type of film and it’s easy to see why it made as much money as it did. The film is relentlessly entertaining, even if the material happening on screen is highly unbelievable. I’ll get the most obvious thing out of the way: the whole transformation is never really explained beyond some magical hobo-looking janitor at a school who doesn’t really work there and…well, that’s it. The entire film’s backbone is as thin as that…but, really. It’s a fantastical film that, no matter how well it’s explained, could be fully believed so letting it get away with such a thin plot point as that is easy.
Honestly if you take your brain out and set it aside while watching this film, it’s a very entertaining and light hearted romp. It’s surprisingly edgy with a PG-13 rating that offers the ability to load it up with copious amounts of teen and sex humor, but it’s the cast that really makes it so entertaining. Sadly we see very little of Matthew Perry (although he’s not exactly the star of the film anyway) and it’s Efron who takes over the majority of O’Donnell duties. I’ve never seen Efron in anything other than countless issues of entertainment magazines, but I was quite impressed with his acting ability here. Not only was he easily likeable in the role, but he also channeled Matthew Perry’s style of acting remarkably well; the sped up body movements and dead pan reactions were really all well done.
While we often get movies of this caliber of age regression/progression, I’m honestly having trouble coming up films that dealt with a regression of age. As a result I guess this film is mildly original in that regard, but it’s all the same elements. By switching ages you learn valuable lessons that you wouldn’t otherwise know…but in 17 Again it almost feels a bit more wholesome as it’s a father that gets to reconnect with his kids and wife, whom which is he getting a divorce from. It’s difficult to really call this film a rehash as the exact story hasn’t really been done anywhere with great success, but at the same time the story feels familiar and old. Strange, but, again, it doesn’t matter—it’s just an entertaining film regardless.
But enough comparing this to other films—how does it stand on its own? Quite well, actually. As I already mentioned the main actors are a delight, but the addition of such talent as Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Melora Hardin, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Hunter Parish (of Weeds fame) really was a solid move on the casting directors part. Lennon especially plays the role of O’Donnell’s friend quite well, with a ridiculously awesome house (that Landspeeder bed is…just hilarious) and copious cars. It’s a really well cast film and I was genuinely surprised by just how much I enjoyed it…likely because they kept the stupid teenager speak down to a minimum and there was minor cell phone usage.
It’s a short, breezy, and easy to swallow film that leaves you feeling content and satisfied in the end. It’s kind of disturbing how much chemistry Mann can have with her co-stars, from Perry and even Efron to an extent (which is slightly creepy at times, but…that’s the price you pay with a story like this). It’s got plenty of laughs to keep you content and I left the film genuinely surprised by Efron’s acting ability. Once he breaks free of the Disney belt for good, I could see him doing some solid work (as long as they stop making him dance in everything, as this little musical bit with the cheerleaders was annoying even in a short burst).
Overall the film has its problems, but they aren’t even worth talking about because it’s just the type of film that can have a couple plot holes (such as the whole age of their kids thing…I swear the film contradicts itself when it comes to the age of the characters, but I let it slide because it doesn’t really matter). In the end it’s a Recommended film…which is as surprising to me as it is to you, I assure you. But it’s just an easy film to enjoy.
17 Again arrives in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case that boasts two discs (one Blu-ray, one DVD/Digital Copy combo) inside as well as a couple inserts for the aforementioned Digital Copy and firmware upgrade notices. I especially like that they included a DVD copy and Digital Copy on the same disc…cuts down on the clutter. Also included is a heavy gloss slip cover but you can easily toss it unless you like Warner’s revamped Blu-ray logo top they’ve been adding to their inserts as of late.
Video arrives in the form of a VC-1 encoded transfer and while it starts out rather annoying (the early portions of the film are flashbacks of sort) with a heavy black border all around the image to signify that it was “old” times we were seeing. After that cleared up, the transfer became quit enjoyable, with a highly enjoyable color palette. Dark blacks, rich colors and deep hues, everything about the film looked fantastic…while at the same time not looking very exciting at all. It’s a modern film and to expect it look like anything other than that is a bit pointless, so it’s a pretty by-the-books transfer, while at the same time boasting plenty of detail. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is mostly front channel focused, but there’s some surround work during the party, basketball games and the soundtrack for the film.
Zac Goes Back (12:32, 1080i)
Going Back to 17 (3:13, 1080i)
Way Cool Tell-All Trivia Track
Breakin’ Character Outtakes (3:24, 1080i)
Zac’s Dance Flashback (2:10, 1080i)
Additional Scenes (16:05, SD)
These are pretty basic and generic making-of documentaries and whatnot, but I have to say I’m glad they cut out the second dance from the film…it would’ve felt too “Hey everyone, this is Zac Efron!!!”-y. If you enjoyed watching the film then you’ll enjoy the extras, but honestly there’s not much here to dig into. There are some BD-Live goodies that are to be made available, such as some kind of commentary and a couple of featurettes (one of which, Zac Attacks was actually available to view and was a pretty decent extra…why it wasn’t included on the disc itself I don’t know), but only one of them was available as of this writing, so I can’t review the other two yet. I really wish they’d leave the BD-Live extras to the discs itself…it’s a nice “after-the-fact” place to stuff extras, but when the extras are obviously made for the disc itself, it’s annoying to have to wait on a download just to watch the rest of the extras. But that’s a whole other complaint in of itself, I suppose, and has more to do with the studio than this film.
In any case the extras available here are decent, but hardly worth going out of your way for if you were going to get the barebones DVD release anyway. If you were going for the Blu-ray, however, then it’s hard not to Recommend this release. Simply put it’s an enjoyable film that you could easily watch multiple times.
17 Again arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on August 11th.