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17 Again (Blu-ray)
Warner Brothers / 2009 / 102 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: August 11, 2009
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- List Price: $14.98
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Reviewed by Aaron Peck
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
'17 Again' is being marketed all wrong. I understand that Zac Efron seems to be taking the world by storm with his 'High School Musical' fame. His face is emblazoned on the front cover of the '17 Again' Blu-ray, he has top billing, and a blurb in the lower left hand corner trumpets the fact that this Blu-ray is packed with over 30 more minutes of Zac(!!!). Yet, there's not one mention of the perfect supporting ensemble cast! The same supporting cast that makes this film watchable, and at times loveable.
In 1989 Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron) had it all. He was dating the prettiest girl in school, had killer dance moves, and a surefire opportunity at playing basketball at the college level. But, after finding out his girlfriend was pregnant Mike gave up his life to become a family man.
Flash forward to the present day and Mike (Matthew Perry) is on the verge of divorce from his high school sweetheart (Leslie Mann), his two kids ignore him, and he's stuck in a dead end job
The trailers make it perfectly clear that Mike soon gets sucked into some vortex in a river and returns as himself at 17. Yeah, I know, it really doesn't make much sense. What's funny is how the movie treats this circumstance. Mike is transported back to being 17, but he's in the present day. Fortunately, his best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon) is a rich software engineer/mondo geek, who, after just a few minutes, figures out that Mike has been sent on a spirit journey, since this kind of story exists in a lot of the literature he's read (fantasy books, Star Wars novels, and comics). And that, basically, is that. We really don't need to know how this whole spirit journey works, because we've seen it a bunch of times before in films like 'It's a Wonderful Life' to 'Freaky Friday.'
What's enjoyable about '17 Again' is the surprisingly clever writing and some tremendous comedic acting by the supporting cast. Thomas Lennon is absolutely hilarious as Mike's best friend Ned. He's one of the main reasons to watch the film in the first place. Leslie Mann, as always, is perfect in her role. When she informs young Mike, thinking he's someone else, that he's never going to "get anywhere with her" even though getting with an older woman is "popular" with kids nowadays I almost lost it.
I was sure I really wasn't going to like '17 Again.' I'm not too fond of Zac Efron and the snippets of 'HSM' I've seen while flipping past the Disney Channel were enough to make me dry heave a little. After the first few minutes of the movie, when they throw in a 'HSM' homage with Zac dancing with the cheerleaders before a big game, I was about to write the entire film off. But, then they introduced the other characters. Efron is fine throughout the rest of the film, and actually delivers a fairly impassioned speech with fine acting at the end, but '17 Again' belongs to the supporting cast who truly give it life.
Marketing this film on Efron's back will inevitably get some sales, but they're missing out on the chance to win over an audience that will never watch this film, fearing that it's just another 'HSM.' It most certainly is not. Even Matthew Perry does a great job for the little time he's actually on screen. '17 Again' also goes so far as teaching some pretty great morals to the younger generation about abstinence and young women needing to respect themselves.
Here is an enjoyable film that you'll be able to watch with your family while not feeling bad that you're kids are seeing it too.
You really can't ask for a better looking transfer for a comedic film such as this. The VC-1 encoded transfer does everything that is asked of it. Fine detail is nice and clear. Contrast is consistent. Blacks stay even throughout the film, except they lack a bit in the effects sequence where you see the whirlpool vortex. In this scene the blacks blend together and don't really make the whirlpool down below seem very clear.
Skin tones stay natural and consistent throughout. On one or two occasions I noticed some faces taking on a more orange effect, but it was fleeting and not distracting at all. Digital noise and anomalies are non-existent. This is a pristinely clean transfer with a great sense of detail and colors that really pop.
Warner's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track works like a charm. Sure, the majority of the film is dialogue centric, so your front speakers get most of the work out, but when the rears and sub are called upon they do their job effectively. The party Mike throws at Ned's house produces some great ambient noise, while also providing nice thumping bass with the background music. The swirling vortex also lends itself to some great low rumbling LFE.
There were a few conversations where the directionality seemed off. It's noticeable mostly when Mike is trying to have conversations in the halls of his high school, but other than that I couldn't find anything wrong with this surround tack. While this isn't a disc you'd stick in to show off your system, it won't disappoint.
- Way Cool Tell-All Trivia Track - This feature plays along with the film. Every half a minute or so some useless trivia or pop culture references will pop up informing the viewer what they have to do with the film. Lots of fluff here.
- Zac Goes Back (HD, 12 min) - This is the standard "making-of" featurette featuring mostly EPK type interviews. The most interesting part is Efron and Perry discussing the ways they tried to mimic each other's characteristics during the film. Every so often you can really see where Efron is trying to "Perry-up" his performance.
- Breakin' Character Outtakes (HD, 3 min) - I thought this was quite a clever way at presenting "outtakes." These outtakes weren't taken from filmed scenes that went awry, but they were captured by the behind-the-scenes documentary crew, and compiled here. There's a really funny exchange between Efron and Lennon that you'll just have to watch for yourselves.
- Going Back to 17 (HD, 3 min) - This is a short featurette where some of the cast were asked to remember some of their high school years. Not really sure why they interviewed Efron on this one though. He was only 18 when they filmed this, and he NEVER talks about how much they sang and danced without provocation at whatever high school he went to.
- Additional Scenes (SD, 16 min)
- Zac's Dance Flashback (HD, 2 min) - Unless you wanna see more Zac move bustin' I suggest you skip this one. I think most people will be sick of watching Efron dance by now. A bit of this footage is also seen in "Zac Goes Back."
All the special features on this disc are exclusive to the Blu-ray. In a weird move Warner is releasing this title on DVD as barebones as they come. So the big announcement at the bottom of the cover "Packed with Zac!" Actually just means they decided they'd put the features here instead of on the DVD.
'17 Again' also comes complete with BD-Live, but as of press time, there was no content available. The box indicates that the extra BD-Live extras will include "Zac's Commentary," "Tom Lennon and Melora Hardin – Unfiltered: Two Comedic Improv Masters Come Together," and "Zac Attacks: Mike and Ned's Hilarious Battle with Medieval Science-Fiction Weapons."
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'17 Again' is surprisingly enjoyable, and not just another dumb teenage comedy as it's being marketed. The supporting cast members -- Perry, Lennon, and Mann -- really add a tremendous amount of fun and heart to the film. With its surprising hilarity, the clean transfer, nice audio, and 30 more minutes of Zac(!!!). I have no choice but to recommend '17 Again.'