Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Zac Efron looks perfect when he's "17 Again"

I wondered if New Line Cinema’s “17 Again” (dir. Burr Steers) could coincidentally turn out to be a heterosexual retelling of “Edge of 17” (1999, Strand Releasing, David Moreton and Todd Stephens).

I’ll come back to that – maybe there’s a partial parallel – but let’s address what most people have heard – the fairy tale comedy of a middle aged man – now become a loser and fighting off divorce – turning into a teenager (by going through a wormhole at an accident) with the wisdom of age – and get a chance to save his marriage and teenage kids . Boy, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a 17-year-old body with the wisdom and knowledge of age. (I won’t get into brain growth and decay, but seeing around corners, as Dr. Phil points out, is a biological skill. And would I really want to experience high school again?) And Zac Efron, at 21, is just about perfect. But Matthew Perry (actually 40) makes 37 look old here. Not everbody makes it to their 40s looking like Tom Cruise, but that is something that makes you wonder. Why did a kid with so much on the ball fall apart so quickly.

Zac’s dad character gives a speech (to a teen health class on “abstinence” and condoms together) on the satisfaction of marital, procreative sex and the emotional attachments and transformations of parenthood (okay, more than reproduction, which rules). But however I take it in intellectually, I don’t experience it myself. I see the “parents” at a point in time, and tend to question if they deserve it. That’s how I see things, and a world of emotion builds around these values. To me, the setup then seems “manipulative”.

The movie has an “angelic” young man generated by a fluke of physics mentoring a man rapidly failing and flunking life in middle age. The young man also mentors the other adults, including the wife (Leslie Mann) and even the nerd Ned (Thomas Lennon) set up as his father (there are some cute extraneous scenes in Tolkien that require subtitles).

I guess in the gay film above, there is a bit of that. Some viewers remember the coming of age on a summer job in a fast food joint in Ohio in the 80s (a bit like “Adventureland”) The third scene selection (DVD) is the “giggle” scene where Rod (Andersen Gabrych) brings along Eric (Chris Stafford, most appealing in the role), and the movie makes a lot of the appearances of physical maturation when the actual differences in ages may be slight and or not at all. Even so, the gay film shares something in common with its new straight counterparty from mainstream Hollywood (I guess New Line counts as that). Both films take issue with Dr. Phil and make teens and young people (apart from the high school jerks) look a lot smarter than the middle aged sophists that they become. But that's not so hard if you can always be "Troy Bolton".

One other thing about the "Edge of 17" movie: Eric's stay-at-home mom (following Laura Schlessinger's values) goes to work so that Eric's parents can send him to New York for college. But they don't know what he wants to do when he gets to college!

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