While 17 Again gets off to a rather questionable start, complete with Zac Efron doing a dance number in a high school (sound familiar?), the script by Jason Filardi quickly turns itself around. This is another “out of body” movie, not unlike Big or Freaky Friday, but 17 Again has a unique, somewhat serious undertone that is refreshing and charming.

Older Mike O’Donnell is played by Matthew Perry, distraught that his high school sweetheart’s pregnancy cost him his future. Mike chooses to do the right thing, marrying Scarlett (Leslie Mann) and taking an office job at a pharmaceutical company, losing a basketball scholarship in the process. The decision haunts him daily.

Scarlett is in the process of divorcing him, when Mike meets a weird, older janitor who inexplicably turns him into a 17-year old. Perry handles the stress and disappointment of his life well, particularly considering the limited screen time he is given. It nicely leads into Zac Efron living with the mind of older Mike, a transition that is nicely handled and entertaining.

The trick to 17 Again is that young Mike attends the same high school as his two children. This is not a film about Mike’s problems living inside a different body. Those scenes are quickly established and eliminated. It focuses on reconnecting with the people he loves from a fresh perspective, including his wife.

Scenes of young Mike chasing his own daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) around his high school and scolding her for dating the school bully are funny. It becomes increasingly awkward as teenage hormones take over and Maggie begins falling for her own father, unbeknownst to her or anyone else.

The scene stealer here though is Thomas Lennon who plays Ned Gold, an absurdly rich geek, complete with a bed made from a Star Wars land speeder. He is Mike’s roommate while the divorce goes through, and greets the young Mike with a lightsaber duel worthy of all geekdom.

17 Again ends rather abruptly, with Mike returning to his normal age with few questions as to the entire ordeal. It is a missed opportunity, as scenes with Mike trying to contemplate his experience are tossed to the wayside.

Still, it is a lot of fun getting there, and a surprise. 17 Again could have been a lot different, but it chooses to be smarter than expected. The family crisis is used well in both comedy and drama, particularly scenes between Zac Efron and Leslie Mann who are rekindling their broken marriage without one of them even realizing it. You’ll have a good time here. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

17againStill courtesy of Cinemasquid.com

17 Again is bright and saturated for much of the film. Scenes of a regretful Matthew Perry are noticeably duller for effect. Black levels are rich and deep, delivering a fine sense of depth.

Colors are bold without becoming over saturated. Flesh tones are fine, and facial details are fair although falling short of spectacular. Occasional softness is acceptable, and the fine grain structure does not hurt the VC-1 encode. Some mosquito noise is evident early (troublesome during the promotion scene), but seems to clear itself up. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

New Line delivers a decent TrueHD mix. The music which blares before the two basketball games is rather loud, but clean while providing nice low-end thumps. School hallways carry ambient audio nicely, including ringing bells and general teenage chatter. Likewise, the basketball games themselves create the sense of being on the court.

Mike’s “incident” in which he sucked into the vortex is also great, with swirling wind and water hitting each channel. That is about it in terms of the audio punch, as this somewhat tender comedy is dialogue driven. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]

Most of the extras are sparse in terms of value, especially Zac Goes Back, a purely promotional piece that would rather discuss the movie’s plot than provide any actual information. Going Back to 17 is a marginally fun feature where the cast recounts their own high school experience.

Some outtakes and a trivia track provide what is expected. Thirteen deleted scenes include an additional dance number that gains its own brief featurette. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

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