AWFJ Women On Film – “17 Again” – Susan Granger reviews

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Think of it as “Zac to the Future,” as hunky teen heartthrob Zac Efron (“High School Musical”) plays a younger version of Matt Perry in this body-swap comedy/fantasy.

Back in 1989, Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) was the star of the high-school basketball court with a college scout in the stands, a scholarship possibility and his whole life ahead of him. But, instead, he decided to marry his pregnant girl-friend Scarlet (Allison Miller) and settle for a mundane life in pharmaceutical sales.

Now, downwardly mobile in his dead-end job and loathed by his kids and soon-to-be ex-wife Scarlet (played as an adult by Leslie Mann), bitter, middle-aged Mike (Matt Perry) is crashing on the sofa of his nerdy best friend, Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon), who has become a techno-billionaire with a collection of “Star Wars” memorabilia. Then, a strange encounter with a mysterious ‘janitor’ (Brian Doyle Murray) returns Mike to his 17 year-old youth. But things aren’t exactly the way he remembered them. Besides, it’s 2009, not 1989, and he’s still 37 years-old inside-his-head. Plus, his troubled daughter, Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg), and son, Alex (Sterling Knight), are among his classmates. And everyone has life lessons to learn, particularly about taking responsibility for the choices we make.

Unevenly written by Jason Filardi (“Bringing Down the House”) and occasionally over-sentimentalized by director Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down”), the concept, nevertheless, succeeds, tracing its trusty antecedents to poignant pictures like Tom Hanks’ “Big,” Michael J. Fox’s “Back to the Future,” Lindsay Lohan’s “Freaky Friday” (a remake of Jodie Foster’s earlier version), Jennifer Garner’s “13 Going On 30,” Kathleen Turner’s “Peggy Sue Got Married,” Dudley Moore’s “Like Father, Like Son,” Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” even Diet Pepsi commercials where the guy wants to be young again.

But the timelessly universal wish-fulfillment tale unfolds with incredulous tenderness and a light touch, so on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “17 Again” is an endearing 8, but let’s hope the volume of the sound track doesn’t continue to drown out too much of the dialogue.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.