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« In Which If Your Exoskeleton Is Made of Adamantium You Are Never 17 Again »

Impossibly Young, Impossibly Wolverine


17 Again
dir. Burr Steers
102 minutes

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
dir. Gavin Hood
123 minutes

Some of us are always looking back at one period in our lives with enhanced scrutiny. For pharmaceutical rep Mike O'Donnell, that period is not a period at all. It's that time in high school when he knocked up his girlfriend and blew a basketball scholarship at Ohio State.

For Jimmy/Wolverine, it's about that time he killed about 20,000 people in various global conflicts at the behest of the United States since that fateful day when he looked up into the sky way too accusingly.

I guess technically it's more than just a body count for young Wolvy. It's the countless indignities suffering by a man playing a younger version of himself in a remake of a popular fable. I didn't really know Wolverine needed another backstory. He now has somewhere around 42 backstories, none of which really do anything but sour him on the idea of his existence.

After getting magic-fucked by a gentle janitor, Zac Efron is now a 42 year old man in a 17 year old body. If it was not entirely evident that Efron is destined to be the biggest box office draw since Tom Cruise, it is now. He's a little tap dancing minx and he's captured mine and Leslie Mann's heart now countless times.

Instead of chasing teenage ass one last triumphant time, Efron/Matthew Perry's Mike O'Donnell is more intent on helping out his kids and reconnecting with his wife. He probably shows more interest in Leslie Mann than Judd Apatow ever has, or ever will.

17 Again is more like a twisted honeymoon than a real trip back for funsies. It seems that once you lose the innocent joy that fuels texting charges and too-revealing cell phone pix, it can never be returned to, not even if you're wearing the husk of the most gorgeous creature on the planet.

Efron's genius friend through time is internet millionaire Ned Gold, played by State veteran Thomas Lennon. He's made enough money to spend all day gaming and sleeping in the most awesome Millennium Falcon bed I have ever seen.

The highlight of the subplot in which Lennon seduces Melora Hardin (Jan from The Office, she plays Efron's feisty principal) is an entire conversation conducted purely in high Elvish. That they never gave us a Thomas Lennon—Melora Hardin sex scene in the Millennium Falcon is because this film wasn't going to realize the majority of its profits from nerds.

It can be fun to be old, this film is saying. In the real world, however, it's actually far worse to be young. Efron's son and daughter are almost seamlessly absorbed in the insane Los Angeles high school culture, and this cookie-cutter version of HS lacks students of color and it's still scary. The climatic basketball scene is whiter than the Shire, and yet it still feels like some horror is being returned to us to go back to high school.

It's much better to have everything in place, to be more practiced, to not be afraid, to be confident and secure in the knowledge of who and what you are. This is perhaps the most depressing cinematic realization of the year.

The message of one of the great films of the eighties, Vice Versa with Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold, was that young people and older people had something to learn from each other. Saucy executive Reinhold never give his relationship with his son the energy he deserved, and didn't realize how hard the boy had it. In the end, you got the message that life pretty much sucked no matter how old you were. If it wasn't for magic, what was the fucking point anyway?

Enter Wolverine. He has plenty of fancy special effects and adamantium bones, but he just wants a normal existence banging some excessively hot schoolteacher in a random Colorado town. He's put down the blades of steel and the rich history of killing he enjoyed for a more spartan oeuvre. That's where we find him when the main action of X-Men Origins: Wolverine begins.

Some dumbass at Fox leaked the Wolverine workprint (and probably got fired for it). The version I watched is missing about 40 percent of its special effects, a development that attunes you completely to just how much of a movie like this consists of startling visuals. It is also real proof that David Benioff is focusing most of his energies on his forthcoming adaptation of Game of Thrones for HBO.

In the case of Wolverine, he only really does two things. He scrapes something with his claws, or punctures it. There's really no way of knowing which act you're going to get. It's a similar delight to reading binary, or looking at a Yin-Yang symbol. Puncture. Scrape. Pose. He's got all the elements of Zac Efron, except he's in his mid 40s and made of adamantium.

17 Again makes use of its lead's ample voice and dance talents. I just wish the idiots behind Wolverine had realized that Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber are immense Broadway talents, and a photobooth montage with Hugh singing the female part in South Pacific's "Some Enchanted Evening" is sorely needed here.

Besides introducing the world to the lamest version of Gambit ever to hit stage or screen, Wolverine offers little else to sink your claws into. They should just chop out the special effects and run a clip reel of all the puncturing and scraping. Put it to the right soundtrack, and you basically have 300, and look how much money that made.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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Reader Comments (5)

"...and this cookie-cutter version of HS lacks students of color and it's *still* scary."

You'll be hearing from my subtext lawyer in the morning...

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteven augustine

Zac Efron is so beautiful and cool, i luv him and i'm not joking

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachael


September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjodi gordon

Speaking as a fan and collector of comics for over twenty-one years, I have to say that despite the dramatically wrongful portrayal of Deadpool which turned him into a hairless zombie the film was very well done. Although not completely true to the comic, it at least chose an interesting new path. It’s not the greatest of comic movie, but it’s still a good one.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan


December 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentern

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