Directed By: Burr Steers
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry, Melora Hardin, Sterling Knight
Studio: New Line
Film Length: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Release Date: August 11, 2009
The Film ***
In 17 Again, Matthew Perry plays 30-something husband and father Mike O'Donnell. Mike is at a personal and professional nadir. He is in the midst of a divorce from his wife, Scarlett (Mann), to whom he has been married since she became pregnant during their senior year of high school. He is also finding it difficult to relate to his teenage children Alex (Knight) and Maggie (Trachtenberg). To make matters worse, he also finds himself unemployed and living with his high school buddy, Ned (Lennon), a dot-com millionaire who uses his wealth to indulge his undying fanboy obsessions. After an encounter with a mysterious janitor who asks him if he ever wished he could do his life over again, Mike finds himself transformed into his teenage self (Efron). Convincing Ned to pose as his father and enroll him at the local high school, Mike decides to relive his glory days, but quickly becomes more interested in helping his kids negotiate the minefield of adolescence.
Adult/teen body swap films seem to show up often enough that a term should be coined for the genre. 17 Again offers nothing more than a slight modulation over what has come before and is not the film to turn to if you are looking for something ambitious or original.
Given the project's high-concept entirely predictable plot (the average viewer who has seen even one advertisement for the film will know exactly how things are going to play out before the credits sequence is over) and saturation marketing program aimed at teenagers, my expectations going in were exceptionally low. With that in mind, I am happy to report that my low expectations were exceeded. The film gets by largely on the strength of its cast, all of which do their best to make something interesting out of what, at their core, are pretty stock characters. The supporting cast is filled with comedic ringers such as Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, and Melora Hardin. The subplot involving Lennon's attempt to court high school principal Hardin is almost completely unnecessary, but funny enough that one does not begrudge its presence.
At the center of the fillm, High School Musical teen idol Zac Efron gives a surprisingly assured performance as a grown man in his former teenage body. It seems effortless, but probably took a lot of hard work between Efron, Perry and director Burr Steers. Without obviously appropriating any of Matthew Perry's mannerisms (and we all know he has his share of them from previous performances), Efron manages to maintain character continuity through the whole film. One wonders how teenage girls viewing the movie will respond to their pin-up idol acting like a 35 year old man for the length of the film, but it is absolutely what is required to sell the film's somewhat flimsy premise.
In the end, the filmmakers set the bar low and manage to clear it handily. The result is a mildly entertaining sporadically funny time-passer.
The Video ***½
The film is presented via a 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 presentation consistent with its original theatrical framing. A 4:3 reformatted version of the film is also included, but was not reviewed by me. While generally free of significant video and compression artifacts (there was occasional edge ringing, but I really had to be looking for it to notice on my 100" projection set-up), the transfer has a somewhat soft filtered look which prevents it from being on the level of reference quality SD presentations. To be clear, this does not appear to be an artifact of the original photography, but more like something that was done in the video domain to make compression a bit easier.
The Audio ***
An English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the film's only audio option. It is a fairly unremarkable mix that makes minimal use of the surrounds and LFE channels, even in situations that would seem to lend themselves to it such as the high school basketball games that bookend the film. Even across the front channels, stereo effects are applied lightly and infrequently except when music is playing.
The Extras ½
The disc has no extras. When it is first played, the viewer is greeted with a series of skippable promos. All are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below:
- Me and Orson Welles Theatrical Teaser (16:9 video - 1:09)
- Warner Blu-Ray promo (16:9 video - 1:44)
- Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins TV/DTV Trailer (1:39)
- Ghosts of Girlfriends Past Blu-ray/DVD trailer (2:19)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Theatrical Trailer (1:52)
The DVD comes in a standard-sized "Eco-lite" DVD hard case (uses less plastic than an Amaray case, but does not have holes in it like the "Ecobox" cases) with no inserts. The widescreen and 4:3 reformatted versions of the film are presented on the same side of a dual-layered DVD-9 disc. Menus are straightforward with the only options being "Play Movie", "Scene Selections", and "Set-up".
17 Again is an entertaining if unambitious variation on the adult-teen body swap genre of films. It proves to be entertaining thanks largely to a charismatic and funny cast led by a surprisingly assured performance from Zac Efron. The DVD presentation is in keeping with the solid but unspectacular nature of the film with a lightly filtered looking video, a decent representation of the film's functional but plain 5.1 audio track, and absolutely zero extras.