Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to the Future Again

Grade: B

Off the long list of movies I've seen in the past few months and haven't gotten around to writing about, 17 Again is making it on here because it releases on dvd today. So all of you Zac Efron fans, Matthew Perry fans, and fans of movies like Big that didn't get a chance to see this in theaters, now's the time to contemplate: to netflix or not to netflix?

As for those of you wondering why I saw this movie at all, much less in theaters, here's the thing: I'm in that third category (no, not the Zac Efron one). When I saw the trailer for 13 Going on 30 I was all like "Big rip-off, lame," but you know what? It was a total rip-off of Big and still awesome. Everytime I see the "Thriller" dance scene on TV I get hooked.

Much in the same way, 17 Again is a complete and unapologetic rip-off of Back to the Future. Not only does it crib plot points, but it makes direct allusions. Except it's Back to the Future in reverse, as this time Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry --> Zac Efron) is in high school with his kids, not his parents. Remember that scene where Marty McFly wakes up in bed pantless thinking it's all a dream til Lea Thompson wakes him? Same thing happens here, except it's Mike's daughter. Creepier? Probably.

But much in the way that 13 Going on 30 is a rip-off that reminds you what you like about the original, 17 Again still manages to capture enough of Back to the Future's fun to be a perfectly watchable and even enjoyable movie. Other perks: Zac Efron proves he can be charismatic without singing, Leslie Mann is better served than in Funny People, and Weeds's Shane plays a bully. Also, a subplot involving Mike's rich but dorky best friend (Reno 911's Thomas Lennon) and his quest to woo the school principal (Jan from The Office) scores most of the biggest laughs.

I'm aware that 13 Going on 30 went well beyond its Big premise to be a good movie in its own right, and 17 Again certainly can't compare. But still, don't be too quick to write this one off as a non-musical version of High School Musical. And remember - sometimes unoriginal can still be fun.

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