I have a confession: I have watched almost every Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie ever created. And no, I’m not going to apologize for it. Most of the films ranged from bad to awful, especially since I was in my early 20s when I was watching them and I wasn’t exactly the right audience for the films. But the thing is, I had fun watching them. Through them, I lived vicariously, reliving a picture-perfect childhood so far removed from anything I could ever have imagined living on welfare with my mentally ill mother in Washington Heights. At least, that’s why I think the Olsen films became a guilty pleasure and my sister and I watched them religiously while we were fighting to take custody of my sister away from my mother in court for three years.
So when my sister told me 17 Again was worth seeing, I believed her. We have similar tastes and a disturbingly similar sense of humor. She promised that people had been laughing in the aisles and to be sure, there were people chuckling to themselves and out loud when my friend J. and I watched the film at the AMC Loews theater on 68th Street–you know, the one next to the best Barnes & Noble EVER. Still, the film isn’t much better than most Mary-Kate and Ashley films. The jokes are mostly eye roll inducing and a number of the audience had notably, much like myself, come over to Zac Ephron who looks so much prettier on the big screen than I thought any man could.
It’s easy to see the appeal of Zac Ephron (who is Jewish by the way). He is sexy without being too sexed up. He is still a PG, Disney channel squeaky clean, tween-beguiling hearthrob with acting, dancing and singing chops that will only serve to broaden his mass appeal. He carries the film effortlessly despite the clunky writing and even clunkier jokes and the supporting characters don’t overshadow him too much. Michelle Trachtenberg was better as Buffy’s little sister on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even better as a wicked teen on Gossip Girl. Matthew Perry is dull and easily overlooked but his love interest, Leslie Mann is fantastic. The real scene stealers are Melora Hardin (“The Office”) and Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!) who fall in love in kinky, nerdy Elvish spurts.
The film, in case you’re wondering, is about a 30-something-year-old guy who thinks his life basically went down the tubes after the glory days of high school. Some crazy movie mumbo jumbo transforms him into his 17-year-old self and sends him back to high school to salvage his relationships with his teenage daughter and son. There’s also some romancing because the guy is in the middle of a divorce from the high school sweetheart who told him she was pregnant at the big 1989 high school basketball game that should have propelled him into college ball, not fatherhood. The film is awkwardly funny and not as slick as it could have been. Still, while I might not roll out a poster of Zac Ephron on my wall (I’m a little too old for that), I will look forward to seeing his next film and it’s not just because he’s a pretty face.
Now, perhaps it’s just me but does anyone want to be 17 again? 17 was the age when I ran away from home. And though I was popular in high school, I felt chronically misunderstood. Would any of you do 17 all over again and why?