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Film / 17 Again

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"Well, of course I want to live in the past. It was better there."

17 Again is a 2009 American comedy film.

Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron) 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 Mike (Matthew Perry)'s life hasn't improved. His wife Scarlet (Leslie Mann) has kicked him out, his kids Alex (Sterling Knight) and Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) both hate him, he's just been fired, and he's living with his geeky but much richer best friend Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon). After going to his old school to pick up his kids, Mike is approached by a mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) 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 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.

Not to be confused for the year 2000 film Seventeen Again (2000) starring Tia and Tamera Mowry and Tahj Mowry.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: Mike was 17 in 1989.
  • Aesop Amnesia: The girls who are touched by the abstinence speech Mike gave to their class still try to entice him with sex later on. Though one could say that they became even more attracted to him because of the speech.
  • Age-Down Romance: Mike is aged down 20 years from 37 to 17. When he starts attending high school again in the present day he's a Chick Magnet (due to being played by Zac Efron). He has to deal with an Unwanted Harem of teenage girls including his own daughter, who are attracted to him and don't know his real age. This trope is one-sided: he is not interested in any of these girls, instead trying to win over his wife, who now thinks he's a high school student who weirdly resembles her husband and Likes Older Women.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders:
    • Averted with Scarlet and Maggie. Neither 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 have a major crush on the head cheerleader Nicole, and actually gets her.
  • Almighty Janitor: With a title like 17 Again, it was inevitable.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Mike finally proving to Scarlet who he is and that everything he has done was to help his family.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Mike O'Donnell wishes that he could go back in time to change his life. Courtesy of a whirlpool, he does, by turning into his 17-year-old self, which is not what he had in mind.
  • Be Yourself: Ned's pursuit of the principal is ineffectual as long as he's playing up his Man of Wealth and Taste persona; it's only after he reveals himself to be a Lovable Nerd that they connect, as she's a closet nerd as well.
  • Bittersweet 17: A washed-up divorcee is returned to his 17-year-old body in order to affect change in his life when it was most important.
  • Bookends: Mike is playing basketball, Scarlet 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.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Mike is not well respected at all by his daughter Maggie, who speaks to him with impudence.
  • Brainless Beauty: Most of the girls who chase after Mike.
  • Bully Magnet: Alex is bullied by Stan even at his own home.
  • Cannot Talk to Women: Alex is incredibly awkward with girls and can't hold a conversation with his crush Nicole without saying something weird, like complimenting her hair by comparing her to his dogs.
  • Chick Magnet: 17-year-old Mike manages to attract the (unwanted) attention of multiple high school girls, including his own daughter, in the present day. See Unwanted Harem below.
  • Closet Geek: The principal, Jane Masterson, who Ned Gold spends the movie trying to win over, is a big fan of the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises, and corrects Ned regarding Gandalf the Grey, from the former, being Gandalf the White in Two Towers.
  • Cultural Translation: In the trailer, Michael says to his friend, "You look like Clay Aiken!". In the Russian version of the trailer, his line was replaced with "You look like Elton John!". Apparently, this is done because most Russian viewers don't watch American Idol and have absolutely no idea who the hell Clay Aiken is, while Elton John is quite famous. But the problem is that this guy does resemble Clay and in fact doesn't look like Elton.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Happens quite often with Mike.
    Mike: [absent-mindedly] You're an excellent dancer.
    Scarlet: Excuse me?
    Mike: [backtracking] Uh... I mean... you look like you can really move. [barely refrains from facepalming]
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Scarlet'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.
  • Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: Lauren, one of Maggie's friends, flirts with Mike by bragging she's so flexible she got kicked off the cheerleading squad.
  • Fountain of Youth: Mike falls into the river, and comes out of it in his 17-year-old body.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: "Margaret Sarah O'Donnell!"
  • Geeky Turn-On: After trying lavish schemes to win over the heart of Principal Jane, Ned finally captures her heart when he speaks Elvish to her... and she replies in the same way.
  • Genre Savvy: Ned is particularly well-versed on what kind of fiction tropes would've triggered Mike's transformation, as shown when he tries to figure out:
    Ned: Are you now, or have you ever been, a Norse god, vampire, or time-traveling cyborg?
    Mike: You've known me since, what, first grade? Maybe I would have told you.
    Ned: Vampire wouldn't tell... cyborg wouldn't know.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Mike convinces Ned to pose as his dad and enroll him in high school. Used in both the movie and the trailer.
  • Girl Posse: Maggie has a trio of friends who hang around her composed of Jamie, Samantha and Lauren.
  • Jerk Jock: Maggie O'Donnell is going out with Stan, captain of the basketball team, bully, and petty douche.
  • Kissing Cousins: Technically, Maggie attempts to invoke this relationship with "Mark Gold", supposedly the son of her uncle Ned. Although "Mark" and Maggie wouldn't actually be related as Ned and Mike are only friends, not siblings. The kids just call him Uncle Ned.
  • Likes Older Women: Due to his attraction to Scarlet, this is how 17-year old Mike's tastes would appear to everyone else.
  • Manchild: Ned is an excellent example. Still holding on his geeky interests, spends all day playing video games, refused to go out unless Mike absolutely needs him to, eats entirely junk food, has little social skills, and doesn't have any other companion aside from Mike. The only reason he doesn't have his parents looking over him was because he is rich, which may or may not be inherited money or being a Self-Made Man. Justified as he was bullied in high school.
  • Mirror Reveal: Mike drives home after falling into a river, looks into the mirror while showering the mud off of his clothes, and sees his transformed teenage self in the mirror, causing him to freak out.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Maggie concludes that (17-year-old) Mike is gay after he is obviously squicked by her advances.
  • 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.
  • That Was Not a Dream: In a Shout-Out to Back to the Future, Mike deliriously tells his daughter that he dreamed he was 17 again.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Literally. Teen!Mike makes himself a huge sandwich, then leaves after just one bite.
  • Time Marches On: Compare the 1989 cheerleaders with the later ones. 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.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Mike, Ned and Scarlet have different actors for their teenagers and adult versions, although Ned and Scarlet teen versions are only seen in the opening.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Harem: Several school girls and eventually, his daughter and his somewhat confused wife, fall for Mark, actually Mike.
  • Wild Teen Party: Mark hosts a massive party at Ned's house after the basketball game.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The present seems to take place in 2009, which would be 20 years after Scarlet'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.
    • A theory for this is included in the WMG page; Scarlet may have miscarried their first child, which reinforces the reasons their marriage is still in trouble as they tried to introduce children to fix an already strained relationship.
    • Or... not. The movie was released in 2009, but Scarlet specifically mentions Mike's been complaining about their situation for 18 years, so more likely the story's "present" is actually set at sometime during the 2007-2008 school year.
  • You're Not My Father: Maggie says to Mark that he's not her father after Mark forbids Maggie from moving in with Stan. She has no idea that he actually is her father.