Mike O'Donnell is the Big Man on Campus. He's the star of the high school basketball team, his girlfriend is the hottest girl in school, and he's about to be offered a scholarship. But his life takes a turn for the worse after he discovers his girlfriend is pregnant.Flash Forward twenty years, and his life hasn't improved. His wife has kicked him out, his kids hate him, he's just been fired, and he's living with his geeky but much richer best friend. After going to his old school to pick up his kids, Mike is approached by a mysterious janitor whom he tells that he'd do anything to relive the Glory Days. On his way home, Mike sees the same janitor about to jump off a bridge. Rushing to save him, he topples over the edge and lands in a whirlpool.When he crawls out and gets back to his friend's place, Mike discovers he's been turned into Zac Efron his 17-year-old self. Now he has a chance to sneak into the lives of his family and get another chance at the life he wanted.
This film provides examples of the following tropes:
Aesop Amnesia: The girls who are impressed by the abstinence speech Mike gave to their class still try to seduce him later in the movie. Though some may have simply seen it as a challenge.
Averted. Neither Scarlet nor Maggie are cheerleaders despite the fact that they date the captains of the basketball team in their respective decades. The actual cheerleaders appear to be Mike's pals and/or background dancers.
But then of course there's Alex who does want a cheerleader, and actually gets her.
Book Ends: Mike is playing basketball, Scarlett walks into the room, he resumes playing basketball, she starts to leave, he abandons the ball and chases after her. The parallel plays out up until the dramatic twirl, when he strains his back and has to put her down.
Mike:(absent-mindedly) You're an excellent dancer. Scarlett: Excuse me? Mike:(backtracking) Uh... I mean... you look like you can really move. (barely refrains from facepalming)
Disproportionate Retribution: Let's see, how about Scarlett stealing Mike's personal belongings and running them through a wood chipper. Also a case of the Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male since it's usually also funny when a woman does something like that to a man (who's supposed to take it). But if the roles were reversed, Mike would be called out as a monster for doing the same thing to Scarlett's possessions.
Distracted by the Sexy: Scarlett's first run in with 17-year-old Mike. She's so dumbstruck over how much he looks like a younger version of her husband that she ignores her friend's advice to stop acting like a fool. She eventually has to be physically stopped from going over to smell him. It helps that she's also quite drunk, having just returned from a "happy hour" with her friend.
Two entire scenes are shout outs to classic movies:
Back to the Future - when Mike wakes up after taking a punch from Stan in his daughter's bed and recounts the events so far as a horrible nightmare he had, only to realize it wasn't a dream and his daughter is hitting on him.
It's a Wonderful Life - Mike is tricked into the magical whirlpool that turns his age back when he sees his "spirit guide" apparently committing suicide off the bridge.
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Maggie gets the hots for 17-year-old Mike, whom she doesn't realize is her father, because he comforts her when Stan breaks up with her for not putting out.
Stacy's Mom: Subverted, but that's what he claims when his son catches him talking about her.
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Subverted. He thinks this is what he is supposed to do but finally, he makes the same decision which he did 20 years earlier.
The Talk: Mike gives an abstinence talk in health class. Ironically, it would have been even more effective if he was an adult, as he is a poster boy for what happens to your life because of teen pregnancy.
Time Marches On: Compare the 1989 cheerleaders with the later ones: the 1989 cheerleaders are all girls and all dressed in short skirts that have a way of bouncing up and revealing undergarments; the cheerleaders from "now" are mostly girls, but now there are some boys in with them as well, and everyone is wearing gym shorts. Also, guys fighting in school would have been common enough back in 1989, but everyone recording the fight on their hand-held devices and uploading it to YouTube nowadays is kind of a new feature.
Trust Password: Subverted. Mike gives several to Ned when trying to prove his identity, and Ned gives reasons why each one could've been faked. It takes looking at a picture of them both during their high school days to convince him.
Writers Cannot Do Math: The present seems to take place in 2009, which would be 20 years after Scarlett's pregnancy, which would make Maggie 19 years old—yet she's still in high school; hence, no actual "now" date is given after the Time Skip. Also, though Vanilla Ice wasn't entirely unheard of in 1989, it wasn't actually until the next year that he hit it big and would have been known well enough for Mike's coach to call him "Vanilla Ice" while telling him to knock off his antics with the cheerleaders.