Directed by: Burr Steers
Written by: Jason Filardi
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry, Sterling Knight
Pivotal moments in life impact the overall outcomes and goals we set for ourselves. For some it may be making the right decision in their occupation; in 17 Again it revolves around a basketball game and where that decision leaves a now unsatisfied man.
17-year-old Mike O’Donnell (Zac Effron) steps up ready to play in a championship game that will allow him to get a scholarship and go to college. Right before he steps on the court, his girlfriend, Scarlett (Allison Miller), tells him she’s pregnant. Instead of playing the life-changing game, he decides to take care of his family. Now at 37-years-old, Mike (Matthew Perry) and Scarlett (Leslie Mann) are entering the final stages of their divorce as the former can never complete a single project and blames the latter for his unsuccessful life. He suddenly then gets turned into his 17-year-old self again and has to figure out why.
Getting second chances at things in life cannot be taken for granted. Some harm, like divorce, can be irreparable for the parties involved. This reverse-Big story puts the mind of a nearing middle-aged man into the body of his younger self to learn about the ways he has done wrong and how to rectify it. Coincidentally, Mike went to the age where he made the big decision to not pursue college and follow his girlfriend and around the same age as his kids. As a father, Mike has not always been the best, but through this situation, he gets to learn more about them than he ever did when presenting as his father.
This film’s quality lies in its levity and how it tells a satisfactory story through some fun characters. This premise has been done before in many ways and better, but this one follows the same type of message of being appreciative of what you have. Not having that appreciation plagued older Mike because he just saw life as a missed opportunity where he could have accomplished more. He could not see that life with his wife and kids is an accomplishment of their own. This message runs through the film and he learns this through interacting with his family in his younger self.
Much of the hijinx happen when he does interact with his family because he poses as someone else. His wife becomes baffled by the resemblance but does not think for one second that he’s her husband. Mike tries to help boost his son’s confidence to join the basketball team so he could date a girl he’s been crushing on. He learns about his daughter’s boyfriend that mistreats her. It gets to a reversed Back to the Future scenario where Mike’s daughter starts crushing on his younger self, which becomes a terrifying scenario he needs to get around. Wow, this premise does have the reverse of many plot points in superior films. Luckily, when he gets back to his older self, that issue does not get addressed, nor do they revisit older pictures to see that their dad looked like this one guy they hung out with. Through his younger self, he learns about the ways he failed as a father and husband, which provides him with the learning opportunity he needed.
Plenty of fun to be had with this film, as it traverses this learning journey of a man seemingly unsatisfied with his life. It serves as a reminder about priorities in life and what may be taken for granted. Accomplishments in life have the merit you assign to it and one’s personal evaluation ultimately matters the most. Mike learns that by escaping himself for some time in his younger body. A good lesson for a breezy and enjoyable film.