17 Again (New Line, PG-13)

film_17-again_sm.jpg17 Again is not good. It is terrible. Terrible, terrible, embarrassingly, laughably terrible.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let me tell you something about Burr Steers. Although he’s a contemporary of Quentin Tarantino (he’s one of the guys in Brett’s apartment in Pulp Fiction), he hasn’t been met with anything resembling Quentin’s success. In 2002, he wrote and directed Igby Goes Down, which was moderately successful, both critically and financially. Although it was flawed, I liked Igby Goes Down quite a bit, and have been anticipating his next project ever since. Aside from the odd TV job or co-screenwriter credit (on How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, of all things), the new Zac Efron vehicle, 17 Again, is his next project, coming some seven years after his directorial debut.

Of course, I didn’t know what to make of this; 17 Again looks very much like a movie made for the Zac Efron crowd, but it was rated PG-13, and Efron seems talented enough (I liked him in Hairspray, anyway), so maybe it would be good…

17 Again is not good. It is terrible. Terrible, terrible, embarrassingly, laughably terrible.

Anyone who sees the trailer can tell the plot is hackneyed (Steers didn’t write the screenplay; Jason Filardi of Bringing Down the House did): man has midlife crisis and, under mysterious circumstances, becomes younger. Like Big or 13 Going on 30 in reverse, plus maybe a little It’s a Wonderful Life thrown in. But that’s not so bad; all of those movies I just named are at least pretty good, right? What happens in 17 Again, though, is that we open on a shirtless Zac Efron’s Mike O’Donnell (essentially playing the same character as he did in the High School Musical movies: basketball player, great dancer, most popular guy in school), learn in five minutes or so that his girlfriend is pregnant (okay, so maybe he’s not as virginal as his character in HSM), and then flash forward to Matthew Perry, the older version of Mike, as a put-upon failure who peaked in high school and blames his wife (played as an adult by Judd Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann) for his crappy life. He and his wife are getting a divorce, Mike moves out, and in a rainstorm crashes his car off a bridge when he sees a janitor, and wakes up in the present day with all of his adult knowledge and experiences, but in the body of Zac Efron again. What?? And the whole movie’s like this!

There’s more! Aside from insulting your intelligence, not making anything resembling sense around every corner (why does he magically love his wife again once he goes back to being Zac Efron?), and not having a clear audience in mind (it’s way too dumb for anyone whose age is in the double digits, but there’re still lots of jokes about erections and incest and stuff), it’s full of squirm-inducingly awful dialogue. Example (spoken by a pretty girl upon seeing Efron, who goes back to high school, in her class for the first time): "If that boy were an apple, he’d be a delicious!"

Before the press screening of 17 Again, they screened a trailer for the upcoming Matthew McConaughey vehicle, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, which, judging by the trailer, looks unspeakably awful. I am not kidding when I say that that trailer for that film wound up being far more entertaining, exhibited much more craft in the ways of filmmaking, and had better ideas than 17 Again. | Pete Timmermann

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