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17 Again 

Resurrecting the age-transplant movies of the late '80s, this movie hits every obvious beat.

Resurrecting the age-transplant movies of the late '80s (18 Again, Big, Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son), 17 Again hits every obvious beat. Yet it's still a giant miscalculation. The real template is Back to the Future, which director Burr Steers tries to pitch in reverse. Dissatisfied 37-year-old Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) has his wish granted to return to his teenage glory years. He wakes up as 17-year-old Zac Efron, and enrolls at high school. Marty McFly got to help his teenage parents; Mike shows his teenage children the ropes. This reversal leaves 17 Again stuck viewing adolescence from an adult hindsight. It's a patronizing approach to a teen movie---scene after scene of a grown-up Zac Efron teaching his inexperienced classmates life lessons. It takes three-quarters of the movie for the anticipated moment when Mike's daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) falls for him, and then the situation and her emotions are conveniently swept under the rug. Rather than take the material anywhere interesting, it's reduced to thematically disconnected sayings like, "When you're young everything feels like the end of the world, but it's not." Every kid will roll their eyes at that condescension.

17 Again hasn't the heightened thrill of young experience in Adventureland, Twilight, Roll Bounce, The Wackness and Hairspray. By viewing teenage plight as trivial, so is the movie.


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