Friday, May 1, 2009

17 Again > I Love You, Man

I'm in love with Zac Efron.

No, that's not what I was going to write about. Wait. Okay.

My burning desire for Zac Efron outshines that of the 8 year old girl I babysit.

Wait. Crap. Okay. Wait.

I saw I Love You, Man with no great expectations: It filled those expectations nicely, providing an enjoyable comedy that didn't surprise me but kept me entertained, gave me a few moments of good, real laughter, and featured actors that I, as an actor, enjoy. It was fun. It was nice seeing it with friends. Slappin' da bass did not become a part of my vernacular as, it seems, it has for many and as, I felt at the time, it rather seemed the movie was hoping it would. But I really enjoyed it. Cool beans.

I saw 17 Again with quite a lot of expectations. I expected it to be solidly predictable and dull, genially amusing, and feature Zac Efron shirtless. The opening scene filled several of these expectations. Then the rest of the movie blew my goddamn mind.

The plot is, of course, totally predictable and impossible and kind of silly: That's a given. But the way the characters fill it up, the performances given, the painfully hilarious details of most of the scenes- I was shocked. Even through the seemingly never-ending gales of laughter, I was stunned. The script was clever. The actors were great. And Zac Efron....

Dear God in Heaven, Zac. Efron...

In HSM, which I was forced to watch by my roommate before she departed to play a role in the stage version of the film for a professional theater, we are introduced to a myriad of young people who are all talented enough for the Disney made-for-tv-genre, except Vanessa Hudgeons, who.... who is not good... and, then, we are introduced to Zac Efron. Zac Efron, who is charming and cute, in a kind of vanilla way, but who has an additional spark of something. That little bit of star quality that sets him apart from the other teens in the film. Well, here we have a Zac Efron unencumbered by the ridiculousness implicit in a musical about high schoolers and free from Disney's general mindset. Efron, in 17, is charming, charismatic, sweet, gorgeous, natural, earnest, and fucking hilarious. His sense of comedic timing, urgency, and presence in ever scene is undeniably telling of the potential his future career has. This is not a song and dance man. This is an actor.

And in the first scene he's not wearing a shirt. That's awesome too.

Possibly the most telling sign of the lengths to which Efron will go as an actor as he continues to get better parts, further from the pop idol trappings of the HSM franchise, is his undeniable, extremely enjoyable to the point where you feel a little dirty about it and entirely endearing chemistry with Leslie Mann (who is, as ever, not just funny as hell but vulnerable and believable). The two of them on screen together is unreal.

And every member of the supporting cast is just as committed, just as funny and just as right for their roles. Thomas Lennon as gajillionaire uber-geek Ned Gold is priceless. The relationship he forms with the smart, sharp principal (Melora Hardin) is so funny, and you root for it so hard, your investment in it surprises you. Sterling Knight, who first off... is that made up? Are you kidding me? Sterling Knight? Okay, whatever, own it. Unreal. So, Sterling Knight who plays Efron's son is quite the find. Brings some truly great comedic moments to the screen.

All the high school girls, the jocks, the losers- they're all funny. Everyone holds their own. The movie moves fast and, save one or two comparatively serious moments, never stops making you laugh. Our whole theater was cracking up, wincing, clapping, and shouting "Oh, no, oh, no" at the same time. Also, from a few corners and more than once, "How is this movie this awesome?!".

It's difficult to say.

All that really can be said is that it's the best time I've had at the movies in a while. It combines all the now-common tropes of the new relationship drama- the inclusion of geek culture, the awkward dates, the fish out of water- and uses them all with such dexterity that even though you know where everything's generally ending up, it's still gratifying to get there. Also, and I love the Age of Apatow, but it does something that most of that gang's movies do not: It doesn't rely on the awkward to get its scenes along. It moves just as naturally (with the caveat that, you know, it's a thirty seven year old in a seventeen year old's body and he is thusly coping with teenage life etc. etc. it's MAGIC) and with enough of the crassness of male youth to be hilarious and natural but without the degree of irreverence which most movies in the genre (the relationship comedy genre, not the magic age-reversion genre) posses. Which I enjoyed. Like... I love Family Guy. But I like South Park more.


Just go see the goddamn movie. There's a Naked!Ryan Reynolds trailer attached to it. There, you officially have NO REASON not to go. Immediately.