Mini-Review: 17 Again

As you watch 17 Again you might wonder how often a concept like this can possibly work. This certainly isn’t a Romeo & Juliet type template, but it seems that no matter how many times this, or things like it, come along people will watch, and it will be enjoyable… to an extent. Then I realized it’s like the cinematic equivalent of a sitcom – enjoyable but disposable – use once and destroy.

So, yes, you do laugh, because the father does often forget he looks like Zac Efron and not Matthew Perry, and yes there are flaws. For instance almost no one recognizes him as, at the very least, a reincarnation of Mike O’Donell. What does work in this film’s favor are: Zac Efron, who being given a part where he needs to be more than an archetype delivers, and is rather impressive; Dad dialogue being delivered by a twenty-something that sounds funny when it needs to be and heartfelt when it has to be is no easy feat; and the biggest kudos go to Thomas Lennon who played Mike’s friend Ned to perfection. Lennon provided most of the comedy that put the film over the top and also had the most fully realized character. He was a continuation and expansion of his former self.

Suspension of disbelief occasionally becomes difficult with things like the coach not recognizing Mike, and Ned trying to beat Mike up thinking him an intruder for an overly-extended sequence. However, these flaws are counterbalanced with portions of the film which are told visually, especially in the beginning of the film, a decent editing style in certain scenes, and I did feel Burr Steers’ stamp on the dressing down of the bully scene. It was nice to see a glimmer of authorship in a generally formulaic piece.

If you’re looking to for an enjoyable way to kill time this film is as good as any.

6/10

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Review: Birds of Passage

Birds of Passage tells a story that in synopsis, and in the trailer appears to be quite charming. The set-up is a simple one: Cathy (Clarisse Djuroski) receives a duck egg from her father (Alain Eloy) for her tenth birthday. The duckling imprints on her friend Margaux (Léa Warny) as its mother. Margaux is disabled, and wheelchair-bound so her parents do not think she can keep the duckling. Cathy and Margaux are then determined to find a way for her to care for the duckling at all costs.

This is a very simple, and straight forward story, which is always very refreshing. However, in a tale with so few sections where a single decision by a character can send it off the rails, it almost always veers off course, at least for the time being, and the total effect is irreparable to the end product.

In key moments there is a certain obtuseness to some of the characters that is hard to abide. This is not to say that characters, especially children, cannot make mistakes, it’s the how and when, combined with the predictably of the mistake or odd decision that ultimately makes this one hard to latch on to.

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On positive notes: this film is a prime example of the importance of the first image we see, this one being a static shot of swans on a pond as the credits roll over it. There is a symmetry here, and a visual coming-of-age that is apparent and easy to admire. There is also throughout a reconciliation without speaking that is refreshing.

However, this brings us to yet another difficulty. In this film there are four parents, only one of whom is tolerable, in fact, he’s my favorite character. In coming-of-age tales individuation and parents being seen as a barrier is a natural state of affairs, but something’s off when the thought occurs to you “With parents like this who needs enemies?”

The young leads perform admirably, and the very close of the film, and occasional comic relief are nice but ultimately do not salvage the film. This is a film that should be a slam dunk: kids, one disabled, taking a road trip to not just save their duck from becoming pâté but so that it surrogate mother can usher it to its own independence (and their own), yet the whole thing becomes an example of how to take easily identifiable and watchable characters and situations utterly intolerable.

5/10