Efron a likable hero in hit-and-miss comedy

17 AGAIN HAS a pretty original take on the “do-over” comedy — you know, where someone, invariably a male, gets to go back in his life to do over a key moment or event that continues to bug him.

By (Reuters)

Published: Sun 12 Apr 2009, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 10:56 PM

The twist here is that Mike O’Donnell doesn’t really go back in time: He is simply 17 again, the point at which, he figures, his life went south. So he winds up in high school with his own daughter and son, and his estranged wife can’t understand her weird feelings for this guy who reminds her so much of her ex when he was young.

The film, written by Jason Filardi (Bringing Down the House) and directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down), works better than you might imagine at times but stumbles awkwardly other times. The unevenness in the writing is matched by directorial overkill in certain comic sequences.

Warner Bros. has achieved high awareness for this Zac Efron teen comedy from its New Line unit. When it opens on April 17, it could top the weekend box office.

The film begins when Mike (Efron) really is 17, back in 1989, when he’s a high school basketball star with a bright future and hopes for a scholarship. Just before the game where a college scout has shown up, his girlfriend Scarlet tells him she’s pregnant. So he throws away everything to marry Scarlet.

Why the filmmakers believe college basketball and parenthood are mutually exclusive is unclear — are they aware how many student-athletes have families? — but anyway, it’s 20 years later and Mike, played by Matthew Perry, is a walking train wreck. His kids hate him, his wife (Leslie Mann) is divorcing him and his job disappears. Only his best friend, former school nerd-turned-software tycoon Ned (Thomas Lennon), can tolerate his company.

Along comes, as happens in do-over movies, a mystical figure, invariably in a white beard, who grants the downfallen hero his request — in this instance, to be 17 again. The nice twist to Mike becoming a “fake teen” is that this situation doesn’t so much give him a chance to reshape his life as it does enable him to help his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) and son (Sterling Knight). He can dispense advice and guidance from the perspective of an adult but in the guise of a schoolmate.

More news from City Times