Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 1:14 am | Fair 55º


Cinema In Focus: ‘17 Again’

Many people long to be 17 again, if only for one day. In this film, one man negotiates the experience.

2 Stars — Shallow

For most of us, life never turns out the way that we, in our youthful fantasies, imagined it would. Once we reach the grand old age of our mid-30s, there comes a point where everyone moves from thinking about “what do I want to do when I grow up?” to “Oh, my gosh, I am grown up!”

If you are happy with your life, this is a point of gradual settling in to what you can do to deepen your relationships. If, on the other hand, your youthful dreams did not come out the way you imagined, this becomes a time of trauma or depression.

So it is with Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a man whose life’s dreams have all but evaporated. Like many stories before, this film asks the age old question: “What if I could do it all over again?”

Mike gets the chance when he is instantly transformed back to his life when he was 17 years old. The young Mike (Zac Efron) is mortified with his new state, but also intrigued by the opportunity.  Being the young stud on campus has brought back happy memories. It has also brought to him the realization of the hard lessons he had to learn along the way, including the fact that youthful sex appeal gives you an entrance into peoples’ lives that in later years no longer works.

While it may seem opportune to have your teenage buff body back, along with the adulation that can come with it, if you are a stud like Zac Efron, the fact is that most of us would never want to go back to the hard lessons that life still needed to teach us at that point in our lives.

Growing older may not have the same sex appeal, but there is much to be said from the vantage point of living a life of deeper relationships that are borne out of tough experiences and trials. As one counselor said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Young Mike O’Donnell re-experiences his youth with the wisdom that comes from his life’s journey.  When young girls come on to him with sexual overtones, he now thinks to himself, “Where are your parents?”  In the end, the moral of the story is predictable: going back to your youth isn’t all that you imagined, and making the best of your life in the present has its advantages.

The critical question is, what does it take to make us happy now? 17 Again gives us only a glimpse of an answer. Investing our time in the people closest to us and using our time in business to support that investment, will provide a much more fulfilling life that viewing the equation the other way around. Our families and our friends cannot be our second priority if we want to live a life that exceeds our youthful dreams.


» If you found yourself suddenly 17 again, what would you do with your second chance?

» Why do you think so many authors have written about this fantasy? What does it say about our culture?

» Thoughtful people agree that relationships are primary to a meaningful life. Yet so many of the same people live as though acquiring things is most important. Why do you think there is the disconnect between what we know and what we do?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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