Thursday, April 23, 2009
Embarrassing Movie Wednesdays: 17 Again
Is it too soon to declare Embarrassing Movie Wednesdays an unqualified success? After this week, I'm not sure what else we could call it. Up until now, despite Adventureland sitting right at the top of my favorite movies of the year, the poster flick for EMW has been Fired Up! No other movie has combined all the elements of an ideal EMW experience.
To review, those elements are: 1) It's a movie you're at least slightly ashamed to admit you paid to see in a theater; 2) It is objectively not great cinema; 3) It provides ample material for making fun while watching; 4) It provides a good number of laughs of its own merit; 5) There are cute guys (optional? only in rare circumstances); and 6) You emerge less embarrassed than you were when you walked in. Fired Up! pretty much had it all (plus crocs!). So why am I saying that 17 Again has supplanted it? Because 17 Again has it all but better!
Look, no one is more surprised than I am. I have absolutely never gotten the Zac Efron thing before. At least, not outside of photo shoots or impromptu shirtless walkabouts that served as de facto photo shoots. But certainly not as an actor. Even using that word to describe the kid (man! He's a man! Twenty-one year old fully legal man!) was laughable. And then I saw 17 Again. You guys, he's good! Look, he's not Olivier. He's not even Casey Affleck. But he was likeable, charismatic, funny, and charming in a role that called for all those things and nothing more, and he totally delivered. He even managed to cry believably.
With about 20 minutes left in the movie, my blood ran cold with a terrible realization. I leaned over and whispered to Tara, "It is going to be such a bummer when he turns back into Matthew Perry." And you guys? It was. It made the whole movie seem like a tragedy. Not even Lars Von Trier could have been so cruel to Leslie Mann as to have her trade in Zac Efron for Matthew Perry and make her be happy about it. Leslie Mann is great! She deserves Zac Efron! Why can't she have Zac Efron?
Anyway, the rest of the movie was pretty great too. The nerd subplot with Thomas Lennon romancing Melora Hardin (with tactics he seems to have learned from The Pick-Up Artist, no less) was great, as was the possibly apocryphal subplot wherein Michelle Trachtenberg's character was in fact a ghost that only Efron could see. (Well how else to explain the fact that her mother and brother never speak to her or even look her in the eye?) Add to that the welcome and unexpected sight of Weeds' Hunter Parrish and a diamond-in-the-rough discovery of Sterling Knight as Efron's son, and not even completely squandering Nicole Sullivan could dampen my spirits.
17 Again brought it, you guys. It didn't break any new ground, and the Matthew Perry parts were actually pretty dull/lame (thankfully, those bookends are brief), but for a movie that's been made a billion times before, this felt relaxed and unforced and kind of beguiling.