Would a second chance at your senior year change your life? Mike O’Donnell had it all in high school. He was the star of the basketball team. He was being scouted by major colleges. And his girlfriend was the prettiest girl in school. Then Mike had to make a decision that changed the course of his life. Now Mike has the chance to redo his senior year and change that decision by being 17 Again.
17 Again starring Zac Efron is a great film. The 2009 film has something for everyone – comedy, romance, comedy, drama, comedy, high-speed car rides, geeky nerds and cool dudes. Did we mention comedy? The movie will take you back to high school but with a somewhat different perspective.
The story opens in 1989, where 17 year-old Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) had it all. He was the star of his high school basketball team. He was dating the prettiest girl in school. It is the night of the big game and he was being scouted by a major college. Mike was going places.
This all changes for Mike just moments before the game when he learns there is a baby on the way. Mike makes a decision that will shape the course of his life when he walks off the court to propose to his girlfriend.
Flash forward twenty years and we find a much older Mike, now played by Matthew Perry. The decision he made has haunted him and he lives in the past in the world of what-might-have-been. He is passed over for a promotion at work, his marriage to Scarlet (Leslie Mann) is ending and his teenage kids are strangers to him. Mike would give anything to be 17 Again.
In a “It’s a Wonderful Life”-like moment, he gets his wish. After a strange meeting with the janitor at his old high school – the one his kids now attend – Mike wakes up one morning 17 again. He’s staying with his life-long best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), formerly the high school geek who’s now a software billionaire. Together they determine that Mike has been given a second chance at life. He can reenter high school, relive what he thinks was the best year of his life and change its course forever.
This is where Mike learns that his second chance has nothing to do with basketball and getting the college scholarship he longed for. Now that he’s 17 again, he has the opportunity to see the world his kids are living in. He discovers that he knew nothing about his children and that they are struggling to find themselves. Mike’s second chance is all about connecting with his family, something he’d been too busy to do while wallowing in his own misery.
A side story involving Ned and the female high school principal bring some of the funnier moments to the movie. “Lord of the Rings” fans will be amused by the quirky turn their story takes in “17 Again.”
Zac Efron shows tremendous range in this film. While he’s still playing a high school student, dribbling a basketball and showing off a couple of dance moves, Efron also shows he can hold his own with actors much older than he. In “17 Again”, Zac shows the maturity of a much older person. Playing the father role to actors his own age, he is not only believable but compelling. The story line involving his rediscovery of his love for his wife is where Zac is most convincing. There is an absolute chemistry between the actors that is handled tastefully yet poignantly as Scarlet comes to realize who the young man is that she is so drawn to.
New Line Cinema has a winner with this one. The script by Jason Filardi is exceptional as is the direction by Burr Steers. Other cast include: Tyler Steelman, Allison Miller, Sterling Knight, Michelle Trachtenberg, Adam Gregory, Hunter Parrish, Katarina Graham, Tiya Sircar, Melora Hardin, Brian Doyle-Murray and Jim Gaffigan. At 102 minutes long, “17 Again” has a PG-13 rating making it a great film for many families.
Spoiler Ahead- Don’t read if you don’t want to know how it ends! Mike O’Donnell befriends his children in an effort to impart fatherly wisdom they would never accept from him as their dad. He teaches his son to play basketball and helps him get on the team. He helps his daughter cope with her first heartbreak when the scumbag she is dating dumps her because she won’t “put out”. And in a moving courtroom scene at the divorce hearing, he pleads his case to Scarlet. She requests a postponement of the divorce. Later at the basketball game, Scarlet attends to watch her son play in the big game. She and Mike are both experiencing a sense of déjà vu. Another scout is there to watch Mike play. Scarlet recalls her last time at a basketball game was the night her husband proposed and just like twenty years ago, she gets up to leave. Mike can choose to play game and win the scholarship he’s dreamed of his whole life or once again choose to walk away and follow the woman he loves. “17 Again” has a happy ending.