We all dream of what we would do if we could go back to being a kid again but what if you actually got that opportunity? Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is in both boats. Having given up a potential NBA career to marry his impregnated girlfriend at the age of 17 he's finding himself regretting that decision. Not that we totally blame him. At 37 he's lost a promotion, is in the middle of a bitter divorce, and his kids don't want anything to do with him. Then one day an old janitor grants Mike his wish and makes him "17 Again." Although Mike may be 17 now (and looking a lot like "High School Musical" star Zac Efron) he has in no way time traveled. He's still in the present day just younger, and now he has the chance to make things work.
He signs up to be in the high school his kids are in (so he can keep an eye on them), he works on getting the basketball scholarship he's always wanted, and he gets the chance to be popular once more. But what am I telling you all this for? This is a committee film, made to be very carefully calculated for the widest possible audience possible. This would be a good film so long as it wasn't lousy. Even so, this is a pretty enjoyable little film. Touching even at some points. We've seen this type of movie before, but most of the time it's the kid who wants to be older. While there is little advantage to growing old before your time the idea of getting younger has it's distinct advantages.
But growing younger in a generation you don't understand? That would present some challenges in itself. At one point Mike has a heart-to-heart conversation with his ex-wife, and she spills all the things about her life that he made miserable. He wants to comfort her, but how does he properly do that? For that matter, what do you do when you drive away the bad boyfriend that's dating your daughter only to have her get the hots for you? These scenes are predictable and are almost required for this sort of movie, but they are played out carefully enough where they have more of an emotional payoff instead of just a cheap laugh or two. Much has been of the fact that Zac Efron is making his first PG-13 film that's not distributed by Disney.
I have to admit that despite myself the kid is very likable in this film. Will he go on to have a big career? Maybe. A career he will have, but right now I'm thinking this movie will be for him what "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was for Matthew Broderick. Though forgettable "17 Again" sets out to be a charming mid-life crisis film and succeeds at being just that. Though it won't be up for any Oscars or great acclaim, this is an easy film to recommend for the young and the young at heart.
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Just before his 1989 high school-championship basketball game, 17 years-old Mike O'Donnell's (Zac Efron) girlfriend Scarlett (Allison Miller) tells him that she is pregnant. He leaves the game and a possible college basketball scholarship to propose to her.
Two decades later, Mike's (Matthew Perry) life has stalled. Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has separated from him due to his regrets about abandoning college, forcing him to move in with his geeky and wealthy best friend since high school, Ned Gold; he quits his job; and his kids Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight) want nothing to do with him. While visiting Hayden High School to reminisce, an encounter with a mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle Murray) transforms Mike into his 17 year-old self.