17 x 2
If given the chance to go back in time to being seventeen again, would you? For me, that would mean going back in time two years — junior year of high school *shivers*. At first thought, I would choose to opt out of reliving the “stresses” of high school. But, when I really thought about it, seventeen doesn’t sound so bad. Think about it…seventeen was pretty awesome. Just getting your license, no real responsibility, still living in the comfort of home (with a little freedom), and experiencing the fun aspects of high school (football games, dances, being with your best friends every day.) I would go back to seventeen for at least a week and compare it to how my life is now as a freshman in college.
Now, in Burr Steers’ 17 Again, the circumstances are a little different than a nineteen-year-old going back in time two years. Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a thirty-seven-year-old man (who peaked in high school, I might add) is living a difficult life. He is going through a divorce, his children want nothing to do with him, and he hates his job. Basically, everyday he thinks “what could have been?” O’Donnell ended up meeting his “spirit guide” at his former high school when he is looking at a picture of his seventeen-year-old self playing basketball. His spirit guide (in the form of a creepy janitor) uses his spirit guide magic to help Mike travel back to being seventeen again (no pun intended). The spirit guide came into Mike’s life because he knew Mike wasn’t happy, and he wanted to change decisions he made in high school — possibly take a basketball scholarship. Can Mike O’Donnell, former high school basketball star, change his past to fix his present?
Based on what I’ve stated thus far; you might think of Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future, but the two movies are nothing alike. In fact, they’re basically opposites in terms of time travel. In Back to the Future, Marty actually travels back in time and stays the same age. In 17 Again, Mike O’Donnell’s age changes to seventeen, but everyone and everything around him stays the same. So naturally, he is attending high school with his teenage children, but they have no idea who he is.
Clearly, Matthew Perry can not portray a seventeen-year-old (despite the fact actors are playing younger and younger characters all of the time), so what better heartthrob step in than Zac Efron? Without a doubt, many teenage girls solely watch 17 Again because the High School Musical star is the lead character. Efron is the picture-perfect actor for this film — his sweet voice and killer looks are exactly what Steers needed for this movie to be a hit.
Immediately after going back in time twenty years, Mike is shocked, confused, and his best friend, Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon), doesn’t even believe him. Ned chases Mike around his own house because he thinks he’s an intruder, but then discovers that Mike was visited by his spirit guide and agrees to help him. They decide to change his name to Mark Gold and enroll him in high school, pretending to be Ned’s son. Conveniently, it is the same high school that his teenage son and daughter attend.
Mike was an amazing basketball player in his day, who turned down college basketball to raise his daughter with his then girlfriend (now soon-to-be ex-wife), Scar (Leslie Mann). Now that he has a second chance, Mark Gold (Efron) decides to play basketball. Does any other movie featuring Zac Efron as a super-star basketball player come to mind? Oh, that’s right. The amazing, funny, and highly adored High School Musical series. This aspect of 17 Again is impeccable because Mike O’Donnell/Mark Gold on the basketball court is the spitting image of Troy Bolton in High School Musical (besides a different jersey and school). Efron has plenty of skill in filming basketball, which adds to the movie. The audience can tell that he knows his way around the basketball court. He could have even won this role due to his film history. Nice work, Burr Steers!
The cinematography in 17 Again is outstanding. My personal favorite scene is Mark Gold’s first day at school. He gets out of his Audi — shown from many different angles — with a white tee, leather jacket, and aviators. The costume director did a terrific job turning him into the new “hottie” on campus. His new outfit looked exactly like John Travolta in Grease. The song “The Underdog” by Spoon in this scene was also the perfect addition. The beat of the music flowed smoothly with Mark as he strutted into school. Immediately as he gets out of his car, everyone in the parking lot starts staring at him. It is evident that all of the boys want to be him, and all of the girls want to date him — including his seventeen-year-old daughter.
Many of the comedic elements of the film lie in the fact that his ex-wife and him become very close, because Mark became good friends with their son. Scar and Mark even shared a romantic dance on her deck, which was interrupted by their son who thought the whole thing was bizarre, and it was. Imagine seeing your best friend dancing with one of your parents…weird. In the film, she comments on how her son’s new best friend looks exactly as her ex-husband used to look in high school. Little does she know that they actually are the same person. I just wanted to yell at the TV, because it is so obvious that they are the same person, but more realistically there is no way she would know. If I were in her shoes I would never assume that my ex-husband met a spirit guide and went back in time twenty years to “make things right.”
I think Burr Steers did an excellent job on this film. I love his work in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (I might even consider that movie in my top 3 favorite movies). I think Steers knows how to capture an audience’s attention AND keep us entertained. I can’t think of a single time I was bored in either of the two movies. I’d say the two films are very similar, yet very different. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a film that could totally happen and 17 Again is not, but they both have many of the same aspects, including romance, trying to improve oneself, and comedy. In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andi Anderson (Kate Hudson) and Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) are both trying to further their careers to improve their overall happiness. In 17 Again, Mike O’Donnell wants to improve his happiness by changing the way he handled major life decisions in high school. Burr Steers just knows how to make his audience fall in love with his character’s and entertain them from start to end.
This film is a complete and utter work of art. Its incorporation of a variety of film angles and views, music array, and story line is completely unique. The manner that they filmed the basketball games was so energetic. I imagine filming sports would be difficult to make the audience really believe that it is a true, natural, and an in the moment basketball game. 17 Again flawlessly portrays this. They also use a variety of songs of many different times and genres. Some songs I had no idea what they were (but still loved them), but the well-known “Bust A Move” by Young MC and “Fergalicious” by Fergie show that the soundtrack is majorly diverse. The wide range of music leaves the audience feeling excited, anxious, sad (when you’re supposed to be), and like you’re there in all of the action. Lastly, the story line in itself is a work of art. It is totally unique and comedic in my opinion. It would be totally unprecedented to attend high school with one of your parents. I’ve never seen any other film with this plot, and I loved it.
Another aspect I adored is the fact that film is incredibly thought provoking. After watching, it made me think that anything is possible. No matter how bad things turn out, there is always a way to fix them. If Mike O’Donnell can get the love of his life and kids back after neglecting them for several years, anyone can achieve anything if they really want to. You just have to put in a little effort. Mike thought time wasn’t in his favor… everyday things were getting worse for him until one day, everything turned around. I’m not saying that you should wait for your spirit guide to magically step into your life and make everything better, but I am saying that you can do anything you set your mind to — its all up to you.
Overall, I would award the film a 9/10, because the acting is great, the music is great, and the cinematography is great. The only downfall of the film is how unrealistic it is. Personally, I like watching a movie that can actually happen. I highly doubt that someone is able to go back in time because they are going through a divorce and don’t like their job; however, the film was made in a way that you somehow suspend your disbelief.