Efron comedy ’17 Again’ has some good moments, nothing original

Whatever Zac Efron goes, two things follow: Teenage girls, and big numbers at the box office. While this will no doubt apply to his new comedy, 17 Again, it’s not really deserved in this case. While the actors are all in top shape, especially Thomas Lennon as the nerdy best friend, literally entire scenes are lifted from other movies. Originality is by and far the problem here.

Mike O’Donnell is a thirty-something workaholic who regrets giving up an important basketball game to be with his high-school sweetheart 20 years ago. Present day. He’s been locked out by his wife, his kids are distant from him, and a pending promotion at his 16-year-long job has been given to a 2-month intern.

Suffice to say, he’s regretting his life, but falls into a magical pool of water and comes out as his 17-year old self, looking exactly like Zac Efron. Mike then seizes the opportunity to go back to high school to sort of ‘re-do’ his life, but he realizes helping his kids is more important. Including helping his son, being pushed around by bullies, and his daughter, whose boyfriend is a practically sociopathic jerk.

Efron is fine here. Actually he demonstrates some actual acting-chops in occasional scenes, but mostly he’s almost lampooning his goody-two-shoes ‘High School Musical’ character. A lot of cringe-worthy scenes come of him not realizing he looks 20 years younger than he is, including when he lectures everyone randomly during health class, and tells a fellow student (actually his daughter) that “You will obey me Maggie!”

Thomas Collins is the best part of the movie. He plays Mike’s best friend, who is obsessed with all things science-fiction and has a not-so-subtle crush on the school principal. (The resulting date reveals she, too, is a sci-fi geek, and they engage in a conversation of Elvish.) Collins has been in some other movies recently (I Love You Man, Reno 911) and is sort of a rising star. Leslie Mann, as Mike’s wife, is funny and sweet as she normally is. Mann has been popping up in several comedies lately and it’s nothing but a good thing.

Obviously the performances are not the weakness. The weakness lies in the plot and the script. The story is not new at all, it recalls a mixture of Big, Back to the Future, and 13 Going On 30. Some entire scenes have been lifted from these very films. And the script falls in every possible pratfall and cliche that a teen comedy would present. Now mind you, there are some really great scenes but it’s not enough to save a very tired screenplay. C

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‘Hannah Montana’ very predictable, very formulaic, oddly fun

Miley Cyrus converts her Disney Channel TV series into a full-length movie with Hannah Montana: The Movie. Last year she released a 3-D concert film as both Miley Cyrus and her pop star alter ego, Hannah Montana. Now she has an actual movie, with all the characters from the show. It’s just exactly the bubbly, squeaky-clean entertainment that the TV show provides, which is actually sort of a good thing. It has cameos all over the place, from Taylor Swift (providing a musical performance) to Tyra Banks (who plays a rather important part in the film).

16-year old Miley Stewart appears to be just a normal teenager, but she has a very big secret: She’s also pop star Hannah Montana by night, and Miley’s hectic scheduele begins to affect her attitude in a bad way. Miley’s dad decides to make her spend two weeks in Crowley Corners, Tennessee to reflect on what’s most important in life. At first, naturally, she maintains a Valley Girl attitude, namely, is rather stuck-up towards the town and her relatives. But then after rekindling a friendship with her first-grade buddy, she becomes adapted to small-town life. But some people intend to take Crowley Corners’ open land and make it into a giant shopping mall. Can Miley stop it?

There’s some very, very, VERY, corny moments and lines of dialogue. For example, “Life’s a climb. But what a great view!”, and the moments where Miley exhibits her stuck-up attitude. The film bears some uncanny resemblances to another popular Disney movie (*cough* CARS!! *cough*) Sitting in the theater with two 7-year olds, my mom and I accurately predicted to ourselves about 10 events in the movie. On the other hand, there’s some really fun scenes. In particular, Hannah’s catfight with Tyra Banks over a pair of shoes, and Hannah teaching some Tennessee citizens the “Hoedown Throwdown”. Also just about any scene with Miley’s brother Jackson is pure gold.

Maybe I enjoyed it because I didn’t expect much, or maybe because of Miley Cyrus’ charms and musical talent. Or maybe because of my initial bitterness (the theater was packed with 7-year old girls, I was likely the only male) Or maybe I was just in the right mood. Either way, Hannah Montana: The Movie is throwaway fun that your little girls will undoubtedly love. B

‘Fast and Furious’ entertaining because it knows it’s simply dumb fun – nothing more

‘The Fast and the Furious’ is an odd series. Not really exceptional in any way, except in that it started with a mediocre first movie then actually got better throughout. Not because of any good plot or good acting (uhh, Bow Wow?). First off, yes, Fast and Furious is almost identical to all 3 previous ones. Yes, the action is more intense, and yes, the cars are shinier and fast(i)er. The reason it’s so much fun is that it knows and fully accepts that it’s just a popcorn flick, and that plot doesn’t matter at all for the fourth Fast and Furious.

Set five years after the events of the first ‘Fast and the Furious’, former street racer Dom (Diesel) is now an international criminal, hijacking oil tankers for cash. Brian O’Connor (Walker), once a fellow street racer, is now an FBI agent. When Dom’s girlfriend is murdered, Dom links evidence to a man named Arturo Braga. Meanwhile, Brian is investigating a drug ring led by Braga. When they track him Dom and Brian once again cross paths, and team up to take down Braga. The only way they can get to him is via street racing.

Not much of it makes a lick of sense, does anyone actually care? They want some cool action, cool stunts, and cool cars, and this delivers. Fast and Furious is forgettable. I won’t remember much in about a week. It’s kind of like cotton candy – sweet when you eat it, but melts on your tongue. Pretty good cotton candy, I’d say. B+

‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ somewhat forgettable

Monsters vs. Aliens is just one in a seemingly endless cycle of 3-D animated films, and doesn’t really do anything to distinguish itself from any of the others. It reportedly cost about $175 million to make and doesn’t really show, given that it’s 80 minutes and has about 2 or 3 action sequences.

My guess being that the money went to the actors, such as Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen and Hugh Laurie. The only ones to show any personality are Seth Rogen as the shapeless, brainless yet charming blue blob B.O.B., and Stephen Colbert as the President. If it sounds like I hated the film I truly didn’t, there just absolutely was nothing that stood out at all.

An ordinary woman named Susan is about to be married to a boring jerk when suddenly an asteriod falls near her and she grows to about 49 feet tall. The US government seizes her and she’s branded a ‘monster’. She is locked inside a top-secret facility with other monsters, including B.O.B., a super-genius called Dr. Cockroach, a fish/ape named The Missing Link, and Insectosaurus, a big dumb adorable insect that’s about 400 feet tall and really really dumb. Suddenly, aliens drop onto the Earth and the government needs help. This is where the title comes in.

Another amusing cast member is Kiefer Sutherland, (Jack Bauer of ’24’) as a Southern, cigar-chomping General. His role is small, but memorable. The best scene is where Susan, adjusting to her new height, decides to use some cars as rollerskates to defeat a mega alien boss.

The animation is somewhat impressive, especially in the last half-hour, which is injected with action. Rather formulaic action sequences, but somewhat impressive.

Monsters vs. Aliens is a likable movie, how much you like it depends on your age. However, at least for me, it was too formulaic and bland. Seth Rogen as B.O.B. as well as Kiefer Sutherland have amusing roles, but it’s not enough. C.