New Line Cinema | 2009 | 102 mins | Rated PG-13

Zac Efron is everywhere these days. As the biggest star of the High School Musical franchise, Efron is the latest young Disney star to position himself for a shot at more than pre-teen superstardom. Yes, he’s still gracing the cover of Bop, Tiger Beat and Cosmo Girl among others but at age 21, he may be getting a little old for strictly teeny bopper fare. That being said, in April of this year, Efron starred with Friends alum Matthew Perry in 17 Again. The film did a more than respectable $127,870,187 at the box office despite its rather formulaic and predictable storyline. Right now, the buzz saw that is Zac Efron seems unstoppable.

17 Again

It’s 1989; High school senior Mike McDonnell is living a pretty charmed life. With a basketball championship all but in the bag, he’s expecting a basketball scholarship to a major university. However, things change overnight, when his girlfriend Scarlett (Allison Miller), announces she’s pregnant. After making an impulsive marriage proposal and walking away from his dreams of college and basketball stardom.

It’s 2009; Mike McDonnell (now played as an adult by Matthew Perry), isn’t living a charmed life. Stuck in a dead end job, his boss has passed him over for a promotion, his wife Scarlett (played as an adult by Leslie Mann), has kicked him out of the house and his two teenage kids don’t want anything to do with him. Mike starts to think he could make it all work out, if only he had the chance to go back and do it all over again.

Right on cue, a high school janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray), appears as a “spirit guide” and Mike is seventeen again. However, it’s not 1989 again. It’s still 2009. It’s just that Mike is seventeen, with a thirty-seven-year-olds mind and memory. What to do? He enlists the help of his best friend, whom he’s known since childhood, Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon), a nerdy fanboy who became super rich in the software business. Ned’s still a fanboy, living alone, playing video games, and immersing himself in everything fantastical. He’s a hard-core Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fan, and everything about him and in his house reflects it. Lennon’s character is the best part about 17 Again and his performance easily overshadows the performances of Zac Efron and the rest of the cast.

17 Again
also offers some supporting performances. Comedian Jim Gaffigan is a sullen basketball coach and The Office’s Melora Hardin appears as an icy school principal (that earns Lennon’s affections). Despite the fact that the film is full of clichés and overused genre developments, it’s hard to deny that 17 Again possesses a certain charm. Unfortunately, Zac Efron’s one note portrayal dampens the efforts of Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann and the others; in all honesty, Sterling Knight, who plays Mike’s teenage son Alex, has a much better sense of comic timing and manages to steal entire scenes from the High School Musical star.

Blessed with some humorous moments and a memorable performance from Thomas Lennon, 17 Again is innocuous and fun. While not exactly laugh out loud funny, this Zac Efron offering will likely provide some smiles for the whole family.

17 Again arrives on Blu-ray with an attractive 1080p/VC-1 encode. The film’s palette, while brushed with mild bronze hues, is warm and vibrant, skintones are natural and black levels are rich and fully-resolved. Contrast is lively and consistent, giving the image a good sense of depth and dimensionality. Detail is striking as well: object definition is crisp, texture clarity is sharp and satisfying, and shadow delineation is revealing. Some noticeable edge enhancement hampers the overall presentation a bit, but ringing is the only technical blight that rears its head. Artifacting, banding, source noise, aliasing, and DNR are nowhere to be found and the picture boasts a clean, almost enchanting disposition from start to finish.

Warner’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track is pretty solid. While it runs through all the expected motions any time conversations dominate the soundscape, it offers up plenty of unexpected sonic punch. The janitor’s fountain of youth roars into existence, Ned’s chaotic battle with a newly shrunken Mike is engaging, basketball games are immersive, and a reckless party thumps with LFE prowess. Rear speaker activity draws the soundfield around the listener more often than not, and dialogue is able-bodied and nicely prioritized. Directionality is a tad sporadic — interior acoustics aren’t always consistent, particularly in the halls of Mike’s school — but pans are transparent and dynamics range from decent to involving.

There are some special features:

First, we have the extras on the Blu-ray disc, all of them exclusive to Blu-ray and most of them in high definition. There’s “Zac Goes Back” (HD), a twelve-minute featurette with the filmmakers commenting on the movie’s themes; “Going Back to 17” (HD), a three-minute featurette with more of the same; “Breakin’ Character Outtakes” (HD), three minutes; “Zac’s Dance Flashback” (HD), two minutes, a cut scene in rehearsal; a “Tell-All Trivia Track” with pop-up bits of trivia and gossip throughout the movie; and thirteen additional scenes in standard definition, totaling about sixteen minutes.

Next up are the BD-Live features, requiring that you have your Blu-ray player connected to the Internet. These features include a commentary by star Zac Efron; a featurette, “Tom Lennon and Melora Hardin: Unfiltered”; and another featurette, “Zac Attacks,” a battle with medieval sci-fi weapons between the movie’s best friends, Mike and Ned.

A second disc contains a digital copy of the film, compatible with iTunes and Windows Media devices; a regular, standard-definition DVD copy of the film.

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