You never want to be that woman in her mid-forties who has a crush on Zac Efron. While he is technically a grown man, he’s someone who’s reserved for tweens or teens even. It’s almost on the same level as a fifty year-old man being a Miley Cyrus fan. Isn’t that just so gross? Zac Efron, though, is old school cute. He’s someone who would make girls weak in the knees in any decade, any era, any pop culture moment.Is it his sculpted features? His long lashes? His icy blue eyes? Perhaps it isn’t even about his looks (yeah, right), but more about his charm. Whatever he needs to have, he’s got it in spades. 17 Again offers Efron the chance to woo older women and younger women, to play basketball, dance, and even, in one pivotal scene, emote.Directed by Burr Steers, and written by Jason Filardi, 17 Again is a cliched, Capra-esque fable dressed up with enough well-written jokes and memorable scenarios to more than make up for the tired old theme of not knowing what you have until it is gone. Matthew Perry starts out as Mike O’Donnell, a basketball star on his way to college when his girlfriend is suddenly pregnant.Cut to: it’s many years later. He chose to be a husband and father instead of a basketball player and college student and as a result he’s been punishing his still-beautiful wife (Leslie Mann) for his own disappointment. Now, on the verge of divorce and temporarily shacking up with his best friend Ned (a movie-stealing Thomas Lennon), Mike is touched by an angel (actually a janitor) and voila, he’s suddenly 17 again, a basketball player on the verge of planning his future.What Mike discovers is that he wasn’t “sent back” to rediscover his lost potential, but to help his own children who are having a tough time in high school thus far. High school, after all, isn’t easy for most people. Mike’s daughter (Michelle Trachtenburg) is hooking up with the school bully who’s pressuring her to have sex, and his son (Sterling Knight) is bullied and believes himself to be a soul-crushing nerd.As you might expect, much of the fun of being an older man in a teenager’s body is being to set all of the dumb teenagers straight about things like bullies who are going nowhere and girls who think that “putting out” is the best way to get love and attention. Who among us middle-aged women with crushes on Zac Efron wouldn’t relish the opportunity to go back to high school and put everyone in their place? Imagine how little and insignificant they would look to us now.Once Matthew Perry is transformed into Zac Efron, the film becomes a showcase for the young star. Efron, it turns out, really is more than a pretty face, more than a Disney creation – he’s funny. He holds his own next to Lennon, against Leslie Mann, and is believable as a grown man trapped inside a teenager’s body. We’re never too old to feel 17 again, and Zac Efron turns out to be the perfect spirit guide to take us there.
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