Cast: Zac Efron Leslie Mann
Director: Burr Steers
Rating: ** & 1/2
Body-swap age-reversal stories have been filmic fodder for the past several decades. A derivative confection about a grownup who magically reverts to teen-hood, 17 Again is decidedly inferior to the trailblazing Big (1988) or the more recent Freaky Friday and 13 Going on 30.
Directed by Burr Steers, who previously helmed the indie gem, Igby Goes Down (2002), this sporadically amusing fantasy is buoyed by the zestful performance by Zac Efron, the singing-and-dancing heartthrob from High School Musical 3.
Cut right away, then, to a thirty-something sad sack (Matthew Perry) who’s on the brink of divorce from his childhood sweetheart. Thanks to a chance encounter with his ‘spirit guide’ — in the guise of an aged janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray, elder sibling of the celebrated comic, Bill Murray) — the disgruntled dude is rejuvenated as his 17-year-old self.
Quite predictably, the boy-man (Efron) strives to win back the affections of his estranged wife (Mann) and his two young children. Besides suspension of disbelief, the improbable turn of events also leads to a couple of squirm-inducing sequences.
While re-living his youth, the ‘teenage hottie’ has to fend off the sexual advances of his own daughter who, of course, is oblivious of his real identity.
The situation gets even more icky when the 17-again dad begins to flirt with his grownup spouse.
Attempts to tackle serious issues such as the importance of parental guidance are a tad heavy-handed. On the other hand, a sub-plot involving the billionaire best buddy (Thomas Lennon) and the school principal (Melora Hardin) he lusts for, spices up the entertainment quotient.
Recommended if you can’t find a better alternative.