(Disclaimer: This is my last movie review on the blog, I promise!)
Every few years, Hollywood releases a film about going forward or back in time, and only a few of these movies include insanely inappropriate romantic scenes. Tom Hanks plays a boy trapped in a 30-year-old man’s body in the 1988 hit Big, and I couldn’t watch when his “little boy-disguised-as-a-man” character takes an older woman to bed. Something even weirder happens in the new 17 Again, which stars High School Musical’s Zac Efron, who looks exactly like a Ken Barbie doll.
The film begins with a washed-out looking Matthew Perry (as Mike O’Donnell) talking to his self-proclaimed dorky friend, Ned (Thomas Lennon). Mike is 37-years-old, and his high school sweetheart, Scarlett (Lesliee Mann), whom he married when she got pregnant at 17, has kicked him out and filed for divorce. Mike has no relationship with his bullied son, Alex (Sterling Knight) or sullen daughter, Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg), who doesn’t share the news about her Georgetown acceptance and is secretly dating the guy who throws her brother into trash cans. Mike loves Scarlett, but she’s sick of him whining about “the road not taken.” Had Scarlett not gotten pregnant their senior year of high school, Mike would have been able to play college basketball and likely marry someone else later on in life.
So the impossible happens. Mike goes to his old high school, tells an unusual janitor that he misses his “glory days” at Hayden High School, and he wakes up as his seventeen-year-old self (Zac Efron). He retreats to Ned, who has watched enough Star Wars and obscure sci-fi to believe Mike is actually back in his muscular, tanned, perfectly engineered high school body. Mike returns to his high school, where he teaches Alex to stand up for himself and harasses Maggie about her mean-spirited boyfriend.
The movie is entertaining enough, and I laughed the most at Ned, a wealthy nerd who engages in “pea cocking” (he wears a cowboy hat and purple vest ensemble) and speaks Elvish to attract the high school principal.
Zac Efron is more smooth, but as I said before, his role will make you cringe. He stands uncomfortably close to Scarlett, who doesn’t know that he’s actually her husband and not some perverted high school senior who sees her as the town MILF.
It gets worse when Maggie, his daughter, tries to hit on his seventeen-year-old self. She, too, has no clue that he’s her father, and she repeatedly attempts to seduce him at a party and at school. In a nutshell, the teen movie went too far with this strange Freudian, incestuous connection, and the movie would have been fine had Maggie not unknowingly been attracted to her dad.
It just got too creepy to watch these two interact, and it even felt strange to see Efron continuously pursue Scarlett. This movie didn’t need to incorporate adult-teenage sexual tension and illegal father-daughter relations, even though Zac Efron would be difficult for women of all ages to resist. Still, I don’t think anyone in the audience found either of these things funny.
If you’re looking for a goofy, surprisingly unconventional comedy, go see 17 Again. Lennon and Efron will keep you laughing in between the weird family dynamic scenes.