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17 Again


Stars: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight, Melora Hardin, Matthew Perry, Alison Miller, Hunter Parish, Adam Gregory, Tyler Steelman,

Director: Burt Steers

“It’s a classic transformation story” memorabilia-collecting millionaire nerd Lennon tells his pal Efron and he’s right – Efron, magically transformed from sour 38-year-old Perry into his 17-year-old self, back at his old high school where his teenage son and daughter (Knight and Trachtenberg) are now his peers, and struggling to adapt to being his adult guise in a teenage body. Jason Filardi’s smart screenplay enjoyably reworks and reinvigorates Hollywood’s much-used body swap storyline (‘Big’, ‘Freaky Friday’, ‘Vice Versa’ and, of course, ’18 Again’) in a well-conceived vehicle to prove there’s more to Efron than his sanitized 'all-singing, all-dancing, all-clean-as-a-whistle’ High School movies might have suggested.

Steers directs for maximum comic effect without resorting to seat-dampening Disney-esque sentimentality and he effectively pulls off potentially ‘dangerous’ situations like the 17-year-old’s near oedipal relationship with his wife Mann and manages to make the 17-year-old’s determination to prevent his daughter from wrecking her life with inappropriate romantic shenanigans surprisingly moving and believable. And even the character’s inevitable return to his po-faced Perry persona comes off remarkably well and is justified by the narrative.

Efron grows up convincingly, oozing teenage sex appeal and charisma, Lennon almost steals the show, especially when he is wooing unexpected Lord of the Rings fan Hardin – their first exchange in Elvish is memorably funny - and other roles are played with exactly the right touch. Efron’s fans will be delighted while non-believers could well be converted by its evident charm. Thoroughly enjoyable teen-oriented family entertainment.

Alan Frank

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 12 Apr 2009