I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger. If there are people who don’t feel that way, I don’t want to know them. They’d be insufferable to be around. You’re saying that it all went according to plan? You really wanted to be a dental hygienist all along? You can’t think of a moment where you could have went left instead of right and found yourself other than a glorified stationer? You’re coming up with the top 10 supporting actors of daytime soaps to blog about for no money and you’re okay with that because on the weekends you really let loose. What a dull person. Either that or things actually have worked out for you and I can’t stand to be around you because my jealousy is nearly overwhelming my forced smile and “Congratulations” and the voices in my head can’t stop screaming, “This is it, this is my reality, you’re doing exactly what I want to do half as well as I could, you are an idiot, I am a genius, and there is no justice in the world. Where the hell is my blog!” Breathe…
Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron and Matthew Perry) had it all in 1989 until his girlfriend, Scarlet (Allison Miller and Leslie Mann) gets pregnant and everything changes. He’s totally happy about it at the time. Fast forward to today and he’s living with his bestie, Ned (Thomas Lennon), eating Cap’n Crunch. Then he doesn’t get the promotion in the pharmaceutical company he’s been working at for 16 years (to a sorority girl who’d been there for two months). Life’s not going great. He goes back to High School, ostensibly to see his kids, but really to walk the halls where he was at his best. A mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) comes by and asks him if he wants to relive his glory days (and of course he does), and then there’s a river and a swirly thing and boom, he’s 17 again. Wait, isn’t that the name of the…
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. Corporate America is not entirely peopled with cute-ish sorority girls. Satin’s little helpers are actually 30-40 year old obese women with no sense of proportion and serious control issues. The middle tiers of young, pompous idiots is probably accurate.
Let’s get a second thing out of the way just a bit after that last one. Topicality is hilarious at the time, but fades quickly. A Clay Aiken or Kevin Federline reference will play three years ago, but now? Come to think of it, I’m not sure K-Fed was topical three years ago. I guess that was sort of how Mike was out of touch…so…really, it was doubly a-topical. That’s making yourself instantly dated.
The motivation for seeing this movie comes from an interview/conversation I saw between Craig Ferguson and Stephen Fry. They were talking about how talented Zac Efron was and how he was limited because of his being a pretty boy. If Fry (implicitly) recommends something, I will take a look. And I did, and I think he’s mostly right. I should probably watch Titanic (1997) again before I say this, but I’d say Efron is roughly as good as DiCaprio was in that movie. And we all know how that turned out.
Efron gets a bit of tough assignment. He has to play a grown, disappointed man/father who has gone to seed in the body of a well-fit pretty boy. Piling on, the writer (Jason Filardi) gives the character some rather square and sentimental things to say. Efron has to tear up about three or four times in sentimental love for his wife and children. That’s stretching suspended disbelief to the uncomfortable limits. He’s fine at it, but if we scaled back the Dad according to Hoyle and put in some thoughtful, concerned man (seemingly beyond his years) we’d have a better movie on our hands. How much of this is Efron’s fault and how much is it director Burr Steers conjuring the Disney Channel? The latter force is too strong to be denied. So I’ll have to wait for further proof of Efron’s excellence before I’m satisfied he’s going to be great. But the tools are there, he proves that much.
The other elements of this film do trend towards the fluffy cake of movies. Somewhere someone decided that because they had started on this fantasy path that they didn’t need to bring things back to any sort of realistic environment. I do have some fears that, like the Sorority thing, its other hyper-realisms had satirical aspirations. Any satire does have to pass the observer’s filter of what warrants attention (and who the culprits actually are), so the lazy teachers and the inane rules (e.g., abstinence only) rang a little hollow in my ears. But I’m sure it was red meat for somebody—well, not red so much as pink. I prefer things a little darker, the camera a little closer, the incest less LOL.
Yes, this is the best made for Disney tv-movie you’ll ever see, but it’s good to be the best. I bought it for $5 at Wal-Mart and I don’t regret it. Though, if I knew what I know now, when I was younger, I might have just rented it on Amazon (or bought it for $4.50).