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Review

‘17 Again’ follows similar plot to ‘Big’, not worth the money

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April 30, 2009

The cinema of our time needs a new injection of imagination. That is not to say that interesting movies have not been stemmed from one original premise—what I mean is that much of the time we have one concept that is several times over, and not always with a positive result. In any concerned cinephile’s mind, the question should come up: Why should we pay $10 to see a movie that we basically saw already a couple of years ago? “17 Again” is another failed rehashing of the same plot that was used in 1988’s “Big.” “Why should we have to see this predictable scenario play out again?” you might ask. Well, the New Line marketing department would probably tell you: “Because it has Zac Efron, and the kids love him!”

Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) is a senior at Hayden High School, and may earn a college scholarship via his basketball ‘talents.’ However, right before the first play of the big game, his girlfriend Scarlet breaks up with him. To him, the only way to save their relationship is to ditch the game and ask for her hand in marriage. Fast forward 20 years later, and Mike (now Matthew Perry) and Scarlet (Leslie Mann) are going through a divorce, and his children can’t stand him. While driving in the rain one night, he sees a man (Brian Doyle-Murray, who looks strangely like his brother Bill in “The Life Aquatic”) about to jump off a bridge. Mike stops, only to discover a whirlpool underneath the bridge that sucks him in and spits him back out as his former 17-year-old self. Now Mike must correct his selfish and asinine ways, reconnect with his children, and reconcile his marriage so he can be an adult again.

First off, I would like to say that I am not a fan of Zac Efron or his work (I use the term ‘work’ very loosely). Something as banal as the “High School Musical” films launched him into stardom, and kids have loved him ever since, for some inconceivable reason. So anyone can imagine that I had a grudge against this film before I even entered the theater. When the first shot of the movie is Efron shooting hoops with his shirt off, you know exactly what demographic the film is aimed for. You can actually see the narcissism foaming from his mouth as he talks.

“17 Again” is a very generic film on several fronts. The plot device used to switch Matthew Perry into Efron is as simple as can be. A ‘spirit guide’ morphs him into a teenager, and all he must do to change back is spend a little time with his family. Not too complex. And this is merely a subplot, as the majority of the film is spent getting Mike into crazy and awkward predicaments that fall flat in terms of comic value. There is also a mediocre ‘lesson’ to be learned: spend more time with your family and don’t live in the past. There are plenty of other better films to get this same half-assed sentimentality from.

Presumably, children will like this film. Despite being a PG-13 movie, both the plot and star are aimed toward the younger audience. But for the adults, it treads over familiar territory, especially that of “Big.” “17 Again” feels like a sub-par effort, and that is only because it is unfunny, all too familiar and certainly not worth $10

Stars: 2 out of 5

José Cruz Jr. is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.