17 Again Burr Steers

17 Again Burr Steers
How much does a movie have to rise above my rock-bottom expectations to be considered good? 17 Again, the latest from Zac Efron, is a perfectly competent piece of nothingness that evaporates from memory once one leaves the theatre.

Only the second feature-length film from Burr Steers (a long way from the pseudo-Salinger Igby Goes Down), 17 Again revives the long-dormant body-switch subgenre briefly popular in the '80s.

Mike (Matthew Perry) is a frustrated office drone who missed out on his dream of becoming a star athlete when his wife (Leslie Mann) became pregnant in high school. On the verge of divorce, he tells a Magical Old Wise Man™ how much he wishes he had a second chance at life and wakes up the next morning to find himself back in his 17-year-old body, which, luckily for him, happens to look a lot like Zac Efron.

Enrolling in his old high school, Mike discovers that his son is deeply unpopular and his daughter is dating a jerk, and makes it his mission to improve their lives. He also finds himself wooing back his wife, which is a good strategy; I can think of not a single red-blooded woman who were prefer a puffy, middle-aged Matthew Perry to Zac Efron.

Perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age but I don't mind Efron. He won't be giving Sean Penn a run for his money but he's an affable screen presence. Incidentally, the film opens with an extended shot of Mr. Efron shirtless and oh, how envious I am.

The filmmakers were smart to surround him with capable comic actors: Perry has a way with frustrated snarkiness and Leslie Mann is likeable, if a little underused. Also, I sort of appreciated how the film allows teenagers to act like something vaguely resembling real teenagers — the film carries a PG-13 rating for some relatively matter-of-fact talk about teen sex, a topic never even hinted at in Efron's High School Musical series.

Still, this makes me wonder who exactly the film is aimed at: it's too mature for tots and too tame and formulaic for teenagers weaned on Superbad. 17 Again is acceptable fluff, although I'm not sure it's worth leaving the house for. (Disney/Buena Vista)