17 Again
dir Burr Steers
scr Jason Filardi
with Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight, Melora Hardin, Hunter Parrish, Jim Gaffigan, Melissa Ordway, Brian Doyle-Murray, Margaret Cho
release UK 10.Apr.09, US 17.Apr.09
09/US 1h42
17 Again
Like father like son: Efron and Knight

mann perry trachtenberg
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
17 Again Despite the predictable body-shifting premise and a heavy dose of sentimentality, this teen comedy is extremely enjoyable thanks to especially strong performances from Efron and his costars.

Mike (Perry) hasn't done much with his life over the 20 years since he gave up on his basketball career. And he's about to lose his wife Scarlett (Mann) and teen kids Maggie and Alex (Trachtenberg and Knight) due to his aimlessness. In a pit of depression, he wishes he could do it all over again, and next thing he knows he's a high school senior (now Efron), in school with his kids and trying to get help from his uber-geek best pal (Lennon).

The plot takes the well-worn path to the big climax with lesson-learning, family values and goofy asides along the way. Even with some hilariously warped comedy and a recognition that teens are preoccupied with sex, the film has a sweet, clean Disney tone. Which makes it perfect for Disney wonderboy Efron. He opens the film (in flashback) doing a riff on his High School Musical character before finding something much more interesting as the second-time teen Mike. Efron manages not only to add small touches of Perry throughout his performance, but he subtly and convincingly conveys how it must feel for an experienced man to be back in the body of a thrusting 17-year-old.

This leaves most of the comedy to the supporting cast, and the marvellous Mann, Lennon and Hardin (as the annoyed principal) keep us laughing through their scenes. Lennon and Hardin even get some extremely amusing sequences all their own. And the teen actors are also very good. In fact, the entire cast is strong enough to overcome the limitations of the plot, making the most of the witty dialog and keeping things grounded in relative believability.

And Steers adds some nice directing touches. So it's a little annoying that the transition sequences are extremely dodgy (It's a Wonderful Life reference notwithstanding). And as Filardi's script grinds along into (a) the raucous house party and (b) the pivotal basketball game, it feels just a bit stale and under-imagined. But it's still extremely good fun.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 26.Mar.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall