In a way, Zac Efron is the perfect actor to play a 37-year-old man magically transplanted back into his 17-year-old body. He is a heartthrob to be sure, but he’s not at all hip. You can imagine him driving a minivan. When his character gives a passionate speech about abstinence or stares with paternal pride at his son (who has no idea it’s his dad), it feels believable. This is partly good acting on Efron’s part and partly because, in interviews, on red carpet, in life, Efron has a square earnestness about him. He’s as nice and sensible a boy as the Disney starmaking machine could hope to manufacture. (Efron has graduated, by the way. 17 Again is released by Warner Bros.)
17 Again proves that the body-swapping genre still has legs. Big, of course, remains the class of the field—butFreaky Friday (both versions), 13 Going on 30, and Peggy Sue Got Married were all entertaining diversions, and so is this.
As the film starts, it’s 1989 and 17-year-old Mike O’Donnell (Efron) has just given up a potential basketball scholarship to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Scarlett. Fast forward to present day and Mike (now played by Matthew Perry) is splitting from Scarlett (Leslie Mann), living with his Comic-Con-style geek friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), and regretting just about everything in his life. He meets a guardian angel-type figure who gives him a second chance at inhabiting his 17-year-old self. So back to high school he is whisked, where he gets to interact with his teenage son and daughter as a peer, tear up the basketball court, eat junk food with impunity, and flirt, cougar-style, with his wife. Of course, he’ll eventually realize how good he had it as an adult.
17 Again is light-hearted, funny, and even slightly touching. And although it’s rated PG-13, it’s safe to take the whole family. Sure, there are several sexual situations and even a bunch of vixen-ish cheerleaders who throw themselves at Mike. He refuses their advances, of course. Would you expect anything less from a Zac Efron film?