17 Again (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying.
Length: 102 minutes
Grade: A+C+A+A=A+
Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $135 million (64 U.S., 71 Intl)

Written by: Jason Filardi (Bringing Down the House)
Directed by: Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down)
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry, Sterling Knight, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Jim Gaffigan.

One-time high-school basketball star Mike O’Donnell chose to walk away from the sport in order to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Twenty years later, he regrets his life in a shambles and is given a chance to try it all again when a mysterious janitor makes him 17 again.

Entertainment Value: A+
Okay. I know that will seem high to many people, but in all honesty I haven’t had this much fun watching a movie in a long, long time. My wife and I were dying the whole time. When I really laugh hard, I slap my thigh. Today, I worried I would wake up with bruises. I didn’t really expect much from this movie, especially since Matthew Perry has delivered such inconsistent results and it was basically two first-time creators. I actually chose to watch this instead of “I Love You, Man” because I didn’t think we’d have time to finish a whole movie, and I expect to enjoy that one greatly. We stayed up about an hour later than normal because we didn’t want to stop watching this. I’ll grant that the first few minutes are shaky (like why on earth would she confront him at the game on the biggest night of his life) and there are some minor plot elements which require suspension of disbelief (the kids not recognizing him, for instance). But not only was it hilarious in places we didn’t expect, but the ending was tremendously satisfying. All the characters contribute, but Thomas Lennon is fantastic! Now here’s the problem, I’ve so over-sold this that it can’t possibly live up to my billing. So, let me rephrase. This is an above average teen comedy that is occasionally funny. Now go rent it.

Superficial Content: C+
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C, Violence B, Language C+
There is a big party scene with teens drinking, getting partially naked, and acting sexually. There are a couple of fistfights. I thought the language was fairly mild for a PG-13, although Kids-In-Mind apparently heard a lot more than I did, and the sexuality was a lot of comments and a couple of romantic scenes, including some gags predicated on the near-incestuous situations created by the plot. PG-13 is probably right, but it’s definitely on the light end of PG-13. I would go PG-10 or so. I don’t think younger kids would enjoy or understand it very well, anyhow. But this is a movie about teens that teens can certainly watch if they’ve seen very many other movies.

Significant Content: A+
I’ll try to do this in such a way that I don’t give too much away, which is difficult. Bullies are weak people. Everyone can do something special, if only they have guidance and help. The key to rediscovering our joy is to constantly remind ourselves why we chose things in the first place. Blaming others for your failures never solves anything. High school is an awful place for a lot of people. Resentment destroys love. Love is sacrifice, and you should only make sacrifices if you can live with them forever. Be persistent in going after what you really want. Be patient in fixing problems and remind yourself that not all problems are yours to fix. Be yourself, and everything will work out fine.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Here’s what I loved about this movie. It’s the ideal preaching platform: a highly entertaining movie that delivers a profoundly powerful lesson at the end which you aren’t really expecting because of the movie itself. I actually cried happy tears at the ending because it was so beautiful and vivid.

Discussion Questions:
~What was high school like for you? Thinking back to some of the other people you knew in high school, what do you think it was like for them? Why is high school so difficult for so many people? Is that a legitimate argument against having public high schools?
~If you could go back to high school knowing what you know now, what do you think you would do differently, if anything? What would you tell kids in high school, if you could?
~What do you think of Mike’s tactics for handling Stan? Can you think of anything that would have worked better?
~The plot depends on Mike and Ned lying to everyone else about who Mike is. Does this seem like a problematic lie under the circumstances? If someone said he didn’t like this movie because of this aspect of it, what would you say to him?
~Considering Mike at his real age, what mistakes do you see him making as a husband and a father? Would you say that Scarlet doesn’t admire or respect him anymore? What about his kids? What did he do to allow this to happen? Would you say it’s a man’s duty to live his life so that his family can easily respect and admire him?
~Considering the sex-ed class scene, what lessons can be learned about the differences between male teenagers, male adults, and females when it comes to sexuality? What role does fatherhood play in sexual wisdom? Why is it so important for boys to have adult male mentors?
~Given the way things work out, especially for Mike, would you say this movie is encouraging teenage sexuality or discouraging it? Is there a difference between what the movie is saying and what it is showing? What impact do you think it will have on the average teenager?
Overall Grade: A+
I just hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I particularly wanted to review this one today so that you might be able to watch it this weekend, which was the other part of why we stayed up last night to finish it. I just hope the next work from these two heretofore unknown artists comes out nearly as well.

No comments: