17 Again Uses Tired Plot Line

By Broadside Staff Writer Ross Bonaime

17 Again
Photo Courtesy of New Line Cinemas.

The idea of films in which the main character goes back in time or gets a chance to redo his life over again are usually based on déjà vu. We’ve seen these characters do these events once, now they must go back and do them again for a different effect.

The new Zac Efron film 17 Again gives the feeling of déjà vu, but only because we have seen this idea done before and in much better films.

Efron plays Mike O’ Donnell, the star of the basketball team who just happens to be a dancer, not all that different from Efron’s High School Musical days.

When scouts come to watch him play, he must make a decision to make basketball his life, or give it up to be with his pregnant girlfriend. O’ Donnell drops the basketball mid-game and chooses his girlfriend.

Twenty years later, O’Donnell, now played by Matthew Perry of Friends, hates his life. He has worked at a dead-end job for 12 years and still lives in the past, regretting the choice he made.

While reminiscing about the good high school times, a peculiar, magical janitor questions O’Donnell if he truly would like another chance at the past, to which he emphatically says yes.

When he sees the janitor later on a bridge, he jumps in after him. When he gets out of the water, he ends up being 17 again and gets a chance to restart his life the way he wanted.

I don’t know what is more unbelievable: the idea that a mystical janitor could turn a grown man back into a teenager or that Matthew Perry would play a grown up Zac Efron.

Is this supposed to be an insult to Efron or a compliment to Perry? That being said, Efron is surprising, showing that he does have some comedic chops, especially when paired up with his fake dad and best friend Ned, played by Thomas Lennon, who also plays Deputy Dangle on Reno 911!

Director Burr Steers, who directed Igby Goes Down knows exactly who his audience will be.

As Efron put it recently on Saturday Night Live, it is the “tweens,” and he plays right into that, with as many sentimental moments and sweet scenes that make all the fans fall right in love with Efron again.

The problem here is that nothing seems fresh. Every joke, plot point and character has been seen over and over again.

Much better movies like 13 Going on 30, Big or even It’s A Wonderful Life and Back to the Future have dealt with these same issues in a more enjoyable way. Re-makes can remind us of movies we have enjoyed before, but in most cases, they end up falling flat on their face. 17 again ends up stumbling everywhere with no chance of getting back up.

There are enjoyable scenes, such as the young O’ Donnell trying to rekindle the flame with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Leslie Mann of Knocked Up and wife of the blockbuster monster Judd Apatow. Mann shines in this movie, having the ability to create a lot out of nothing with her role.

There is a scene in 17 again that shows just how much of a retread it is.
After nerdy Ned has discovered the young O’Donnell, he sprawls any material he has that covers this type of incident across his kitchen table.

The table ends up being covered with stacks and stacks of items. They even go as far as to joke about the mystical janitor who has “spirit guide transformation magic,” as if they have heard it over and over again. Unfortunately, we have heard it all before, too.

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