“17 Again” is a big deal for Zac Efron.
Even after the cinematic success of “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” and being the little-known reason for “Hairspray” grossing over $100 million, the 21-year-old actor is at a career crossroads. If “17 Again” opens and turns into a big hit, it could propel Efron beyond his loyal tween audience into a real movie star. Something, consequently, the actor has already been trying to do by guest hosting last weekend on “Saturday Night Live” and headlining Richard Linklater’s still unreleased indie dramedy “Me and Orson Welles.” Then again, today’s news that he’s set to star in an updated “Johnny Quest” may not assist him in this new career trajectory.
Directed by “Igby Goes Down’s” Burr Steers (although you’d never know it), “Again” finds Matthew Perry as Mike O’Donnell, a guy in his mid-30’s whose life is going nowhere. His job sucks, his teenage kids hate him and his wife (“Knocked Up’s” Leslie Mann) is divorcing him. Sigh, if only things could be as great as they were when in high school when he was the big man on campus. One encounter with a magical janitor later and Mike finds himself physically transformed back into his younger self. And that’s where Efron comes in. Quickly realizing this is a chance to help his kids and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Mike convinces his insanely rich best buddy (“RenoThomas Lennon) to pretend to be his dad and enroll him back in high school. The film finds a predictable resolution, but it’s the scripts adult sensibility and inspired performances by Efron, Mann and Lennon that make it worth catching on the big screen.
HitFix sat down to chat with Efron and co-star Lennon (who nearly steals the movie with his character’s romantic pursuit of “The Office’s” Melora Hardin) to discuss just how average a basketball player Efron really is (hey, he admits it), why he dropped out of the musical remake of “Footloose” down and having to go back to high school one more time.
Co-Stars Leslie Mann and Matthew Perry were also on hand. Mann discusses the sensitivity of being labeled a “cougar” and Perry gives some tips on where to see Efron mimicking his facial expressions.
First, Efron tackles the hard-hitting issue of just why he said no to stepping into Kevin Bacon’s dancing shoes in the new “Footloose.”
Efron and Lennon discuss going back to high school and improving together.
Mann dismisses the “cougar” comparisons, and Perry seems impressed by Efron’s performance.
“17 Again” opens nationwide this Friday.