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17 Again



Proving that everything "old" can be new again, 17 Again opens in 1989 where star basketball player Mike O'Donnell turns his back on a college scholarship, deciding instead to marry his girlfriend Scarlet when she reveals they are suddenly expecting a baby. Cut to 20 years later, Mike's marriage and job are floundering when he is physically transformed back into his 17-year-old self although his mind and sensibilities still remain that of a decidedly square thirtysomething dude. With the help of his nerdy-turned-billionaire best childhood buddy Ned, he gets himself enrolled in the same school his own teenage kids now attend. Can he help them avert the same kinds of mistakes now that he (sorta) has a second chance to change?


Zac Efron (High School Musical) shoots and scores in a breakout starring role. He shows he's got the comic chops to believably pull off the way-out-there premise of being a 37-year-old trapped in a 17-year-old's body. Matthew Perry (Friends) does a nice job bookending the movie as the older Mike, but it's Efron's show all the way. Thomas Lennon follows up his hilarious supporting antics as the spurned man-date in I Love You, Man with some equally amusing work as Mike's friend Ned, while Leslie Mann plays the estranged wife in style. As Mike's kids who unknowingly become high school buds with their own father, newcomer Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg get enough screen time to shine. Melora Hardin (The Office) is also quite funny as the school principal that lovelorn Ned keeps stalking.


Although the premise of the adult/kid switcheroo has been done to death, director Burr Steers and writer Jason Filardi take it one step further a la It's a Wonderful Life or Damn Yankees by letting their main character regain his youth for the chance to see what his life would be like if he could live it another way. This fanciful premise makes this "teen" comedy one that adults will probably enjoy even more.


The filmmakers sometimes have a tendency to go over the top, particularly in the ''Star Wars fight sequence'' when the newly transformed Mike confronts old friend Ned with the news and a laser battle erupts (!). Another scene where 17-year-old Mike is seduced by his own unwitting daughter may be funny, but it veers a little too far into creepy territory.


If you like 17 Again, try renting 18 Again in which 81-year-old George Burns switches places with his grandson. Or how about Big, Vice Versa, Like Father, Like Son or either version of Freaky Friday? And who said there are no original ideas in Hollywood ...


A no-brainer — the ''Zac Pack'' will be out in force on opening day.



Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.