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17 AGAIN
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry
Director: Burr Steers
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: August 11, 2009

“Soooo, what did we learn in school today?”

“That I’m a bad dad.”

Film ***

Talk about a movie surpassing expectations. 17 Again is a movie with an all too familiar premise and, from what I could gather, was aimed at a much younger demographic. Added to that, I wasn’t quite ready to warm up to its star, Zac Efron, only because I didn’t think he had escaped his teeny bopper image yet.

Boy, was I ever so wrong? After seeing Efron establish himself as a genuine comedic presence in this effortlessly charmer of a movie, I see quite a bright future for the High School Musical alum. I commend him on making this slightly more mature high school comedy, because in doing so he has illustrated that he can definitely carry a movie.

The story can be considered something of a variation on Freaky Friday. As an adult at the age of 37, Mike O’Connell (Matthew Perry) is not at all the hotshot he was twenty years ago. He did end up marrying his high school sweetheart, Scarlett (Leslie Mann), but several years and two kids later, the marriage is about to end in divorce.

So with things as crappy as they are, Mike would love nothing more than to relieve his teen years. Little does he know that crossing paths with a mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray), will lead to such an opportunity. When Mike spots the man standing over a bridge, he tries to save him only to fall into a huge vortex, thus turning him into his 17 year old image (Efron).

Freaked out by his surprise transformation, he turns to his best friend from school, Ned (the always hysterical Thomas Lennon) for help. Against Ned’s wishes, Mike poses as his son and enrolls in high school. His sole purpose for doing this is to simply keep an eye on his two children; Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight), whom he’s lost touch with in the last several years.

Though this may sound like a tired premise by this point, 17 Again has a lot of energetic fun with it. Mike tries to teach Alex to be a bit more confident in addition to joining the basketball team. As for daughter Maggie, he does his best in convincing her to quit dating the school bully.

And Efron himself should be credited for basically making a mockery of his image in such scenes where he confronts the bully in the cafeteria after his son is picked on. The sight of him saying something like “Don’t you talk to him like that” when his father side kicks in is absolutely priceless. If that weren’t enough, wait to you see what happens after he gives his daughter some comforting advice after she gets dumped.

The movie is as predictable as they come, but that doesn’t stop it from being consistently charming and incredibly funny at parts. The main appeal here is watching Efron escape his previously established persona and trying on something new, and watching him succeed in the role from beginning to end. He has officially become a star by essentially making fun of himself, and I give Efron all the credit in the world for doing so.

Video ****

This Blu-ray offering from Warner is thoroughly dynamic. The anamorphic picture is consistently clear, bright and full of amazing detail. There isn’t a single shot in the movie that isn’t injected with a superb amount of brightness and color. The high school set piece and Ned’s geeked out paradise home are both strong highlights. Not a single flaw to be found in this HD presentation.

Audio ***1/2

A surprisingly strong Dolby TrueHD mix is supplied here. All of the elements associated with a comic fantasy are put to extremely good use here. There’s a lively soundtrack used throughout the movie, providing lots of dynamic surrounding sound. There are also a number of basketball game sequences that play off tremendously well. Dialogue delivery is equally strong.

Features ***

The Blu-ray is plentiful with traditional but engaging enough extras. To start with, there’s “Zac Goes Back”, which profiles the lead star, as well as “Going Back To 17”, which has cast members reflecting on their high school years and   a Tell All Trivia Track. In addition, we also get Additional Scenes, more featurettes including “Zac's Dance Flashback” and “Breakin' Character Outtakes”. The last two features, “Tom Lennon and Melora Hardin – Unfiltered” and “Zac Attacks”, can be accessed via BD Live.

Summary:

17 Again is one of the bigger surprises I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a genuinely funny and sweet high school comedy anchored by an engaging and star making performance from Zac Efron. If you’re still in doubt about this young man’s talent, I highly suggest checking this one out.

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