Blu-Ray Review: Charming ‘17 Again’ With Zac Efron Works For All Audiences

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – While I watched the relatively clever and surprisingly charming “17 Again,” I kept thinking the same thing - “John Hughes would have totally dug this movie.” The recently deceased king of ’80s teen comedies feels like a clear inspiration for this Zac Efron vehicle, now on Blu-Ray and DVD. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

Clearly designed to transition Efron from his “High School Musical” audience to one that can get into a PG-13 movie without a parent or guardian, “17 Again” is a bit edgier, but still a softball, mostly family-oriented comedy. Writer Jason Filardi and director Burr Steers are going for that thing that John Hughes did so well - entertainment for both teenagers and their parents.

17 Again was released on Blu-Ray on August 11th, 2009.
17 Again was released on Blu-Ray on August 11th, 2009.
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Home Video

“17 Again” opens in 1989 as Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) is forced to choose between a basketball game and his girlfriend. (An opening scene that involved a basketball game and a musical number? Is this another “High School Musical” movie? It almost feels too calculated a shout-out to the franchise that made Efron a star.)

17 Again was released on Blu-Ray on August 11th, 2009.
17 Again was released on Blu-Ray on August 11th, 2009.
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Home Video

Flash forward twenty years and O’Donnell (now played by Matthew Perry) is in the middle of a divorce (from the lovely Leslie Mann), just got fired from his job, and is increasingly distant from his teenage kids (Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight). Mike has a moment straight out of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and gets a chance to revisit the last time he was truly happy, when he was the star of that basketball team in 1989.

Like “Freaky Friday” or “Vice Versa,” Mike the adult is instantly turned back into his 17-year-old self and assumes that he’s supposed to go back to high school and do it all over again. He convinces his dorky-but-rich friend (Thomas Lennon) to pretend to be his father and enroll him and he tries to help his son deal with bullying and self-confidence and his daughter deal with the pitfalls of falling for an older boy. Maybe he’ll even find a way to fall in love with his wife all over again.

“17 Again” doesn’t break any rules but not every comedy needs to be a trend-setter. This is the kind of comedy that Disney would have made years ago and it lives and dies on its star’s charisma, something that Efron certainly delivers. A well-cast supporting ensemble including Thomas Lennon, Melora Hardin, and the always great Leslie Mann doesn’t hurt.

The cast is mostly good, but I have to admit to absolute exhaustion at the continual casting of adults in teenage roles. Michelle Trachtenberg is TWENTY-THREE years old and she’s not that unfamiliar a face to sell herself as a teenager like an unknown would be able to do. Her boyfriend in the film (Hunter Parrish of “Weeds”) is twenty-two. “17 Again” is a much better film if Mike’s daughter is actually a teenager (and that’s not a slight on Trachtenberg’s ability, just a fact.)

Even ignoring the casting issue, “17 Again” still isn’t quite perfect. Some of it is a bit too cliched and predictable, but the film is sweeter, more charming, and frankly enjoyable than most teen films release nowadays.

Fans of “17 Again” will love the Blu-Ray release, one that’s overloaded with material aimed clearly at Efron fans. The front even says “Packed With Zac! Over 30 Minutes More With Zac”. No one can claim that they don’t know their target audience.

Special features include “Zac Goes Back: Meet the Movie’s Star Zac Efron,” “Way Cool Tell-All Trivia Track,” “Going Back to 17: Castmates Remember Their Own Teen Years,” Additional Scenes, “Zac’s Dance Flashback,” and “Breakin’ Character Outtakes”.

“17 Again” is presented in 1080p High Definition with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and looks pretty standard for Warner Brothers, which means it’s spectacular. The audio track is a little frustratingly mixed with music and sound cues much higher than the dialogue, all in a Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 track.

Check out the official room for “17 Again” on iTunes and take a look at this clip from the opening of “17 Again” before you go pick up your own copy:

‘17 Again’ is released by Warner Brothers Home Video and stars Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight, Hunter Parrish, Thomas Lennon, Melora Hardin, and Matthew Perry. It was written by Jason Filardi and directed by Burr Steers. The Blu-Ray and DVD were released on August 11th, 2009. It is rated PG-13. content director Brian Tallerico

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