Title: 17 Again
Director: Burr Steers
Main Actors: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann
Studio: New Line
Release date: 2009
Running time: 102 minutes
Genre(s): Comedy, Fantasy, Drama, Kids & Family
Reading Level/Interest Age: Rated PG-13, of interest to teens and older
Readers Annotation: Mike O’Donnell’s adult life is going nowhere fast. When he gets a chance to be 17 again, can he change his future for the better?
Plot Summary: Mike O’Donnell was a high school basketball star in the year 1989, with a bright future ahead of him. When his girlfriend gets pregnant his senior year, he turns down a chance to go professional and it drastically alters the course of his future. At 37, he is faced with losing his job, the end of his marriage, he can’t relate to his teenage children, and he regrets the choice he made as a teenager. He finds himself back at his old high school to reminisce about the good old days, and runs into a mysterious janitor who asks him if he would want to return to being a teenager, and Mike says yes. Later, as he is driving, he sees the same janitor about to jump off a bridge, and when he goes to save the man, there is no one there, and Mike falls into the river instead. When he comes out, he has transformed back to his 17-year-old self.
Needing a place to stay, Mike has to convince his millionaire friend Ned that he is the 17-year-old version of himself, and they decide to pretend that Mike is Ned’s son, Mark. As Mark, Mike enrolls in his old high school in order to secure the scholarship he lost out on twenty years before and make his life better. Mike’s teenage son Alex and daughter Maggie are attending the high school as well, and he befriends his children so he can get close to his wife Scarlett again and keep an eye on Alex and Maggie. He finds out that Alex is being bullied but is very good at basketball, and that Maggie is dating the captain of the basketball team, his son’s bully. As the school year goes on, Mike realizes he has a chance to help his son realize his true talents and help his daughter get out of a bad relationship, as well as try and fix his failed marriage. His wife Scarlett is confused by Mark since he looks so much like her ex-husband did at 17, and rejects his advances since he’s only a teenager.
Events come to a head when Ned goes on a date with the school principal and Mike has a party at his house, which ends up having a huge turnout. Maggie’s boyfriend breaks up with her for not sleeping with him, and Mike comforts her as “Mark” only to find that his daughter has developed feelings for his teenage self. His wife Scarlett shows up at the party looking for their son, and she gets upset after “Mark” kisses her and tells her that he’s actually her husband, not believing him. The next morning, “Mark” and Ned go to Mike’s divorce hearing with Scarlett, and “Mark” reads her a letter from Mike that reveals what he’s realized about their marriage since being a teenager again. Scarlett finds out that it wasn’t a real letter and Mark was just saying those things that only her husband would know, finally realizing that Mark was Mike all along when she compared him to the picture of her husband from an old yearbook.
At the end of the film, “Mark” and Alex play in the championship basketball game, and events play out almost as they did in 1989, except Mike lets his son shine in the game to win the scholarship and goes after Scarlett instead. They reconcile, and Mike turns back into his 37-year-old self. He repairs his marriage with Scarlett and becomes the high school’s new basketball coach.
Critical Evaluation: I think most teenagers would be interested in watching this movie, since it is a comedy and is set mostly in a high school setting. Zac Efron is a big name actor and is recognized by many teenagers, so he is a draw for them. The movie is very well done – the acting, especially Zac Efron and Leslie Mann’s acting, is believable, and the actor who plays Ned is an excellent comedic actor. The plot moves quickly and the dialogue is funny, while elements of the story seem to be well paced. Settings are regular neighborhoods, businesses, and schools in Los Angeles, and the production value is good for the kind of comedy movie the film is. The soundtrack, while not entirely memorable, is a good backdrop for the film, and the inclusion of some 80s songs ties it in to the nostalgia of Mike’s character’s age group. Teenagers can appreciate the throwback nature of some of the 80s references and be entertained by parents trying to act like teenagers. Overall, it’s a good representation of the teenage experience and covers several issues that teenagers deal with (bullying, sexuality, future plans). The film comes in DVD, BluRay, or digital format. Any version would work, though DVDs would probably be best for checking out, unless the library has a subscription program for streaming movies.
From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burr_Steers
“Burr Gore Steers (born October 8, 1965) is an American actor, screenwriter, and director; notable films include Igby Goes Down (2002) and 17 Again (2009). He is also the nephew of writer Gore Vidal.
Steers grew up living in Bethesda, Maryland and Georgetown, Washington, D.C., where he attended St. Albans School. Steers was expelled from both the Hotchkiss School and Culver Military Academy. He eventually earned his GED and attended New York University.
He wrote and directed Igby Goes Down in 2002, an acidic, urban, coming-of-age film that starred Kieran Culkin and Susan Sarandon. Steers also was the screenwriter of the film How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which starred Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. He has directed episodes of the television series Weeds, The L Word, Big Love, and The New Normal. Steers also directed the 2009 teen comedy film, 17 Again starring Zac Efron.”
Ties to Curriculum Units: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Discuss what you would do if you could do a part of your life over, career goals, advice to give your younger self
Challenge Issues: For the age group, I don’t think many parents would challenge the film, though I suppose some might be uncomfortable with Zac Efron being romantic with Leslie Mann in the film because of the age difference. I would prepare by researching the film, and presenting parents with respected movie reviews such as this one: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/17-again-2009
I would also inform parents that it won several teen choice awards and a movie award as well as nominations for various other awards: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0974661/awards