Bad Movies We Love: 17 Again
I have disturbing news about those countless movies in which pairs of characters switch bodies and walk two moons in each others' Reeboks: They're often good! Seriously. From Big and Vice Versa to the Lindsay Lohan Freaky Friday remake and the Katherine Heigl TV movie Wish Upon a Star, the switcheroo trope is a proven success model. There are exceptions, of course -- such as Like Father, Like Son and The Hot Chick -- but it's hard to screw up a formula that forces its stars to go so broad. Then there's 17 Again, which forces its stars (including switcheroo movie The Change-Up's Leslie Mann) into a story about grim adulthood and Zac Efron hair. It's bad with Garnier succulence!
It's a tale as old as time, or at least as old as Zac Efron (born in '87, the year before Big): A downtrodden 37-year-old named Mike (Matthew "Downtrodden Nowadays" Perry) is a lousy husband and father who never fulfilled the potential of his basketball-hairflip-awesome high school years. After he's sucked into a magical whirlpool (not played by Efron), he emerges realizing he's been magically reembodied in his high school form (Efron this time). With some help from his longtime confidant (Thomas Lennon), Mike learns to use his new/old body as a way to remold his destiny. Heart-hugging! One lady classmate even says of Efron, "If he was an apple, he would be delicious." And that metaphor would be Granny Smith, my dear. But apple punnery aside, there can only be five lovable attributes in this rather blah Bad Movie We Love, and we've singled them out here. Enjoy.
5. Leslie "Stark Raving Madeline Kahn" Mann
Yesterday we fought for Mann's rightful status as the post-millennial Madeline Kahn. Gosh, we were right. Here, she plays Mike's generally sane, but slightly batty wife -- a standard Kahnian role. Do you see the comparison? We're in the middle of What's Up, Doc? all over again, lambs. "You wait here," Mann tells her all-business girlfriend when Efron first appears, "I'm going to go smell him." And later, when her son Alex catches her dancing with Efron: "Mike, I am Alex's mother!" Perfect. Mel Brooks, take notice.
4. Matthew Perry in a high school basketball uniform! Ah, terror.
At the film's climax, Perry reinhabits his 37-year-old body and finds himself in a basketball game he ditched 20 years ago. This means he's wearing a baggy ole uniform. Why is this both unnerving and cute to me? Moving along!
3. Thomas "Just a Hilarious Efron BFF" Lennon
Aside from his overblown, needless swordplay in an early 17 Again scene, Mr. Thomas Lennon of Reno 911 is a thrilling addition to this cast. Who'd have thunk the Reno feds had any place in Efron's Pantene Pro-V hair-porn movie? When it comes to the nervy casting of Lennon, I'm flummoxed and titillated, and that's the Bad Movies We Love gold standard!
2. Illegal Move-Busting
The movie kicks off with Efron blankly shooting baskets in a shirtless trance, and let me tell you, the trance is contagious. Then, when the fancy movie basketball game begins, he boogies down with the cheerleaders to a kitschy routine set to Young MC's "Bust a Move." Please watch that clip and come back panting. It's like High School Musical 4: Hip-Hop Undergrad. Ding-dong, you love this movie.
1. Zac "Just a Normal Pushover Hot Supermodel in High School" Efron
Though a movie as cumulus-light as 17 Again hardly seems like an opportunity to prove thespian capability, Efron takes to his role with the High School Musical 3 vim (discussed here) that Walt Disney himself used to transmit to his TV stars via electrodes. Such a Mentadent grin! Such willing goofiness! Such pre-Bieber hair swoops! Efron had it all in 2009, and I wish Orson Welles was alive to tell us what it was like to work with him. Dreamy, I suspect. Efron beams with sincerity in this movie too, and he's crushable enough to make me forget that he resembles 10-year-old Tatum O'Neal (who is a major Madeline Kahn costar! The pieces are coming together, dear reader). I want to lust for Efron unconditionally, but his precocious child-star cred is too much to bear. Bummer. But from the hairline up, he's the hottest man alive.