First up, I may not be the target demographic for this flick (teen chick) but I am a great fan of body-switch comedies like FREAKY FRIDAY and BIG, and I also really liked Zac Efron in HAIRSPRAY and the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL flicks. Therefore, I came to this film predisposed to like it.
Sad to say, I didn't just NOT laugh, I was positively squirming in my seat for most of the film. This is because screen-writer Jason Filardi (no previous work of note) has totally mis-conceived this movie. The whole point of body switch movies is that you get a double-comedy. On the one hand, we see a young kid act preternaturally mature, which is cute. (viz. Fred Savage in VICE VERSA or Jodie Foster in the original FREAKY FRIDAY). On the other, we see a grown-up goof off, which is adult wish fulfillment (the best example of this is Jamie Lee Curtis rocking out in the FREAKY FRIDAY remake).
But 17 AGAIN breaks this fundamental rule. Instead of a body switch comedy, adult loser Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is magicked back into a 17 year old body (Zac Efron). In said body, he gets to turn his teenage son (Sterling Knight) from loser to basketball team member and comfort his daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) when her school bully boyfriend dumps her. Instead of being preternaturally mature in a cute way, he preaches abstinence in an awe-shucks absurd manner, kills the reputation of the Audi R8, and makes eyes at his adult soon-to-be ex-wife (Leslie Mann). I found the love story between the 17 and the 40 year old deeply, deeply disturbing to watch.
Because there's no statutory adult-goofing-off in this movie, the writer has had to invent a comedic sub-plot all of his own. Accordingly, he casts Thomas Lennon as Mike O'Donnell's geeky, infantile, adult best friend, and shows him wooing the similarly geeky school Principal (Melora Hardin). It's a piss-poor attempt at humour.
And what of the target demographic? I took The Kid and she was similarly unimpressed. And the cinema of mostly teen girls squealed at the opening shot of a topless Zac Efron shooting hoops, but after that, ominous silence.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL is on release in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore, Iceland, South Africa, Sweden and the US. It opens next weekend in France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Estonia. It opens on April 20th in Spain and Romania and on May 6th in Belgium, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Greece and Lithuania. It opens on May 14th in Egypt, Germany, Italy and Japan and on May 28th in Russia and Bulgaria. It opens on June 5th in Finland, on June 19th in Norway, on July 10th in Brazil and on July 23rd in Portugal.
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