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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

17 Again [Blu-ray]

 

(Burr Steers, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: New Line Cinema & Off Spring Entertainment

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 102 min

Chapters: 24

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: August 11, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 @ 28 Mbps

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD English 5.1; Dolby Digital English 5.1, German 5.1

 

Subtitles:

SDH English & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Zac Goes Back: Meet the Star – in HD (12:32)

• Going Back to 17 – in HD (3:13)

• Zac's Dance Flashback – in HD (2:10)

• Breakin' Character Outtakes – in HD (3:24)

• 13 Additional Scenes – in SD (16:05)

• Way Cool Trivia Track

• Disc 2: DVD Combo + Digital Copy

• BD Live Features:

• Zac's Commentary

• Tom Lennon & Melora Hardin – Unfiltered: Two Improv Masters

• Zac Attacks: Mike & Ned's Battle with Medieval & Sci-Fi Weapons

 

 

The Film: 7
It happened that I watched this movie the day that the Net was abuzz with the news of the death of John Hughes, so it seemed fitting that I would re-enter the world of the adolescent just now. Though for just this reason – the inevitable comparison to Hughes – my expectations were low. Add to this that the movie starred Zac Efron: Mr. White Bread with Blue Eyes. The Blu-ray begins with a preview of another movie with Zac, and so I stuck around for a bit. What's this: a Thumbs Up from Roger Ebert: Best Movie About the Theatre. Zac is Sensational. Really? And what is that movie, you might well ask? It's called "Me and Orson Welles" and it's directed by Richard Linklater. I shall say no more.

The movie opens 20 years ago at the big high school basketball game, with the usual scouts looking for possible candidates for their colleges. Mike O'Donnell (Zac) is the favored superstar. Just before the starting whistle, he spies his girlfriend in front of the stands and innocently steps over to accept her laurels. We don't hear the words that would change his life, but when Mike returns to the field, he is immobilized and runs off to find her. Cut to 20 years later, Zac has devolved into Matthew Perry. Not a good sign. His marriage to his high school sweetheart, Scarlett (Leslie Mann), is unraveling and she is suing for divorce. Their two kids, Alex (Sterling Knight) and Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) are not at all happy with their father, who has spent the past two decades blaming his wife for his failed life. Returning to the scene of the crime on night, he is approached by the high school janitor who, Freaky Friday fashion, grants Mike's wish to go back and make the right decisions – and, voila: Zac emerges from the primeval ooze once again to the relentless squeals of teenage girls in the audience and on screen.

Even though there is really only one way for this movie to end, the journey is peppered with wit and attention to the current teenage lifestyle – those few that aren't depressed or whacked out on drugs. 17 Again may not have quite the heart of a Sixteen Candles or a Breakfast Club, but it stands for a well made and very entertaining soufflé. The cool thing about this movie – and something not entirely obvious from a summary - is that there are two parallel plotlines, each involving a man in his thirties: one stuck in a kid's body; the other stuck in the mindset of his 15 year old self. Both men have cut themselves off from women and, in their own way, willy-nilly, try to make contact. So, there a story for teens and loyal fans of the Zac and a story for adults – something for those of us guys still stuck in wish fulfillment and gals who do or do not put up with us.

Generally, Zac Ephron is likeable and variably convincing as a thirty-something guy. It seems to depend largely on who's in the frame with him. He's most on target in his scenes with his best friend, Ned, played by Tom Lennon and his soon-to-be ex-wife. He's less fatherly in his scenes with his daughter. Part of the discredit I think goes to Michelle: There's an important scene between Zac and Michelle that unravels simply because it should have been shot with two cameras or in one take, and the cuts back and forth are discontinuous and don't show off the actress at her best.

Whatever you might think of Zac Ephron up to now, 17 Again does represent a step forward in his maturity as an actor. Be that as it may, the story, while familiarly plotted, is aided and abetted by Lennon and Melora Hardin (as the school principal whom Ned falls madly - precisely the right word in this case - in love with.) They are hilarious and steal every scene they're in – together and apart.


 

Image: 8/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Once Zac is transported back to his 17-year old body the image for the Blu-ray of 17 Again is rich with saturated color, reinforcing the fairy tale mood of the comedy. The picture is sharp, with useful blacks and scarcely any artifacts of concern. Edge enhancement, though not entirely absent, is light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/7
The uncompressed Dolby TrueHD track is neat, clear and front directed a good deal of the time (as expected for comedies). It opens up nicely when called for: e,g. the thunderstorm near the beginning of the movie, grandstanding during the basketball games that places us in the middle of the game; the vertiginous music and effects when Mike falls off the bridge; party and club noises and music (very strong here); and crispy dialogue.
 

Operations: 6
We've seen this menu design before: where the special features page seems to be an alternate menu universe, from which you can navigate to other bonus features or a toolbar at the bottom of the page where we find Languages, Scenes, and BD-Live access.

 

 

 

Extras: 4
Aside from the dozen or so Additional Scenes, which are in widescreen SD, and for which there is, thankfully, a Play All option, the remaining four featurettes include some behind the scenes interviews and show off Zac's dancing talents. The pop-up Trivia Track is full of bits of tid that fans will want to know, if they don't already. There are also some promising features on BD-Live which I didn't pursue.
 

 

 

Bottom line: 7
I say: What's not to like here: a charming and sexy Zac for the teens, the deliciously funny Tom & Melora, and an engaging turn by Leslie Mann. The image is quite good in Blu-ray, the audio better than acceptable, and the bonus features will entertain the main target audience here.

Leonard Norwitz
August 15th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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