It must be tough being a teen heartthrob. I mean, sure, it’s probably great having girls throw themselves at you and making more money than you can ever spend, but for those actors that are serious about their craft, being a teen heartthrob can be a career ender. Zac Efron has reached the pinnacle of teen heartthrob success and now he faces the daunting task of trying to shed that stigma and prove to the world that he’s more than just singing, dancing eye candy for twelve year old girls.
Unfortunately for him, movies like 17 AGAIN aren’t going to prove anyone wrong. It has a very well trodden plot and most of us that aren’t teens can name the movie that each scene was stolen from. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, it’s just not going to break any new ground when it comes to originality. It borrowed scenes from movies like FREAKY FRIDAY, LIKE FATHER LIKE SON, TEEN WOLF and even BACK TO THE FUTURE. But every generation needs their body-swap film and this one is an acceptable addition to the long list of “oh-no-I’m-old/young” movies.
In this body-swap incarnation, a man becomes young again and tries to fix the wrongs in his life as a 17 year old incarnation of himself. So of course he mentors his son, saves his daughter from an abusive boyfriend and convinces his near ex-wife he still loves her. But the pressure in all of this is completely on the shoulders of young Efron. In virtually every scene, he has to be likeable and charming to draw attention away from the fact that what we’re witnessing is either a) unoriginal or b) cheesy. In that regard, Efron does a fine job and even though I hate him because I’m not him, I have to give him credit because he’s one heck of a charming guy.
Another bright spot in 17 AGAIN is Leslie Mann. She’s great in most of Apatow’s films and she adds that cuteness to a role that forced her to have a sometimes creepy relationship with a 17 year old kid. The creepy incest line that should never be crossed was not crossed, but they nudged the line several times and I think they would’ve been better staying far away from that. It only detracts from the story and makes the audience uncomfortable.
Overall though, I enjoyed 17 AGAIN for what it was. Although I like the body-swap movies of my generation better (nothing will ever beat Tom Hanks in BIG), this one was cute enough. Zac Efron showed me something here and I think if he chooses some good roles, he could break out of that teen heartthrob stigma. Of course, there are worse things than having teen girls love you.