Updating the body-swap genre for a teenage audience, 17 Again stars young heartthrob Zac Efron as a failed sports star who is given another chance at life.
Forty-something Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) can only be described as a loser. Unemployed and on the brink of a divorce, he dreams of the days when he excelled on the school basketball team and dated the prettiest girl in the class, little knowing her pregnancy would mean the end of his dreams of sports-stardom and a prestigious college scholarship. Then one day during a nostalgia trip to his old school he meets a mysterious, twinkly-eyed caretaker and falls into a Twilight Zone vortex to emerge as a muscle-bound Zac Efron, aka Mike aged 17. His body may have regressed 20 years, but his surroundings are very much as they left him: same wife, same kids, same problems.
Mike decides to enlist help from his geek-turned-millionaire best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), posing as his long-lost son named Mark, and enrolling at the same high school as Mike’s kids. He becomes a basketball star for the second time, and forms a close friendship with his own son, Alex (Sterling Knight), whilst fending off the rapacious advances of his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg). Only their mum, Scarlett (Leslie Mann), recognises the young “Mark”, and there is an amusing scene where she prods and pinches his face in bewilderment that her son’s new friend looks exactly like her husband of yesteryear.
Whilst the film subscribes to all the genres clichés – jocks, geeks, giggling beauties clad in primary colours – it has capable leads, is well scripted and provides enough laughs to sustain even the most cynical of viewers to the closing credits. Zac Efron gives a competent and convincing performance as the central character, but lacks the natural self-assurance of Lindsay Lohan in 2003′s Freaky Friday.