Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann
Director: Burr Steers
Running Time: 102 mins
17 Again is an American film about a soon-to-be-divorced father who finds himself magically transformed into his 17 year-old self, and so returns to high school to try and rewrite his life.
Although this isn’t by any means a brilliant film, I have to say that 17 Again was far better, and far more enjoyable than I expected. For something that looks like little more than a Disney Channel movie from the outside, I was impressed by this film’s strong humour throughout, making for a good few laughs from start to finish, as well as flashes of genuine maturity, allowing for a story that, although not enthralling, still grabs your attention with realistic characters.
But let’s start with the biggest positive, which comes in the form of the comedy. Again, the general appearance of this film is a lot more plasticky and generic, but the fact that it’s actually got some properly good humour makes all the difference. Rather than being just directed at kids and young teenagers, there are jokes here that will make everyone laugh, and although there’s never a moment that will quite have you laughing your socks off, the steady stream of good jokes throughout makes 17 Again a generally enjoyable watch, and far more so than I ever expected at the beginning.
Another plus in that regard comes from the performances. Zac Efron, although still a little bit too Disney to be properly hilarious, is an entertaining presence throughout, and carries out the more preposteorus elements of the story in convincing fashion. Meanwhile, Leslie Mann is great as the man’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, with her trademark charisma coming into play in the more comedic sequences, as well as a generally strong turn making her character a more interesting and mature presence against the machoism of her younger co-stars.
And that’s what really set this film apart from the more generic crowd. Although I can’t say it’s a work of cinematic genius, and didn’t have my eyes glued to the screen, its maturity and relative intelligence in comparison to many films with a similar premise made it a far more interesting watch.
So, it’s not just about a man getting up to his old tricks by having a second go at high school, but instead continuing to learn new things about himself and his family, growing more and more as a character rather than simply being exactly how he was as a 17 year-old. There are moments when the story seems a little too ridiculous to even take seriously, but its impressive maturity does generally bring it back down to a good level, and surprisingly kept me engaged right the way through.
With all that said, I still wasn’t completely bowled over by 17 Again. For all its positives, it still doesn’t manage to shake that rather simplistic Disney-esque feel. Although it’s significantly better than most films that fall into that bracket, it’s still doesn’t quite have the thorough depth or amazing comedy to make for a really entertaining watch, meaning that while it’s a decent film, and one that far surpasses your expectations, it’s still not objectively a work of art, and that’s why I’m giving 17 Again a 6.9 overall.