Clearly the demographic for Burr Steers' 17 Again is the same demographic for any variety of shows on the CW or Disney channel, but I still get to take the gloves off and give it a couple of black eyes.
The concept is clearly ripped straight from Big and 13 Going on 30, but this time in reverse. It actually opens up some pretty interesting possibilities (Who wouldn't want to go back to high school intellectually improved, matured and level-headed?). The film mostly explores these avenues, but in a way that's so bubble-gum wrapped and soft-served that it renders it insignificant and slight.
The main problem is that the high school depicted in 17 Again is such a stereotypical, idealized drag -- a mosque of archetypical teen snobs -- that anything set inside it feels like a brightly-lit, modernized episode of "Saved By the Bell".
When Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) gets his miracle youth warp (into Zac Efron) it's unbearably obvious that anyone with half a brain would recognize him instantly and call him out on it. But no, not his basketball coach, not his wife, nobody. Leslie Mann, who plays said wife, does recognize the similarity at first, but brushes it off even as Mike accidently leaves thousands of clues.
He even calls her by her nickname -- "Hey, my husband is the only one who calls me that?, "Oh, really?", "Yeah, isn't that odd, and you look exactly like him, too, isn't that something!" -- Come on, people!
Zac Efron is actually an actor with decent chops and a good presence. I never have really hated the guy because I think he has a good head on his shoulders and he's going to grow out of his High School Musical phase pretty soon, I hope. Me and Orson Welles, still without a distributor, should prove that further.
Matthew Perry, on the other hand, is so miscast it must have been a last resort, bottom-dollar, we'll take anybody deal, because he looks tremendously out of place. Seriously, they might as well of cast Philip Seymour Hoffman, I mean, really. Zac Efron probably stood there on set going, "So they think I'm gonna look like this dude?"