I got around to seeing 17 Again. Out of curiosity, I glanced at some reviews by the “Top Critics” at Rotten Tomatoes. 17 Again was a box office success, but critical failure–at least to judge by most of the reviews.
Of course, every movie review says as much or more about the reviewer than it does about the movie. What he loves and hates tells you something about his value-system.
17 Again is on the familiar theme of a character who has a chance to get it right this time around.
The one thing I didn’t like about the film was a certain amount of gratuitous vulgarity. Mind you, the vulgarity is realistic and even understated by the standards of modern high school–although there was an anachronistic quality to some scenes.
Beyond that, I thought it was a surprisingly good film. A witty, clever, well-acted flick with a lot of heart and a great message.
However, most of the critics, or at least the elite critics, trashed it. Some of them weren’t very forthcoming about the source of their displeasure, but others tipped their hand. What they despise about this film is its moral viewpoint.
For a film which makes no pretence to be a Christian film, 17 Again is remarkably pro-life, pro-straight, pro-marriage, and pro-family. No wonder the critics hated it.
In terms of liberal orthodoxy, the lead character (Mike O'Donnell) committed not just one unforgivable sin, but a string of unforgivable sins.
The first time he was 17, and found out his girlfriend was pregnant, he threw away his chance at a basketball scholarship to marry her and raise the kid he fathered out of wedlock.
To compound his guilt, when he has a chance to fix things, he blows that chance by using the opportunity to save his failing marriage and help his kids survive high school.
You see, Mike is still deeply in love with his estranged wife. And he also wants to keep his family together. He takes the opportunity to befriend his socially awkward son and help him over a rough spot.
He also tries to rescue his morally rudderless daughter from a predatory boyfriend. As I say, clearly unforgivable.
But there are further outrages. With the benefit of hindsight, Mike delivers an impromptu speech in sex ed class on how you should wait until marriage to have sex.
On top of that, when a character accuses him of being queer, he’s offended. Instead of saying it doesn’t matter, he defends his heteronormative identity.
Underlying the film is the whole notion of repentance and restitution. Given the opportunity, we should make things right. By contrast, the critics evidently live by Edith Piaf's philosophy: "Je ne regrette rien."
Is it any wonder that the elite critics hated the film? It’s one unpardonable episode after another.