Do not be deceived; God is not mocked,
for you reap whatever you sow.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way 1 Corinthians 13:4
Director Burr Steers and writer Jason Filardi’s fantasy comedy is a very mixed affair, affording several tender and funny moments sandwiched in between some preposterous events that all but the most naive will have trouble swallowing without gagging. Though bearing a slight resemblance to the classic Back to the Future, this tale of a despairing husband/father’s awakening falls far short of the earlier film..
The film opens with high school senior Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) expected to perform outstandingly in the big basketball game. He has a lot at stake because a scout from a major college is in the stands to watch him. However just as the coach is gathering the players Mike’s girlfriend Scarlett (Allison Miller) informs him that she is breaking up with him. This so stuns the boy that he cannot keep his mind on the play when the game begins. When he sees her walking out of the gym, he leaves the floor, catching up with her and pleading his case. Yielding to his passionate plea, she agrees to his proposal of marriage.
Twenty years later the adult Mike (now played by Matthew Perry) and Scarlett (Leslie Mann) are breaking up. She is fed up with his complaining about what might have been had he gone on to college. Mike moves in with his best friend Ned Freedman (Thomas Lennon), who was once the nerd that Mike had defended against bullies during their high school days. Now the nerd has become a millionaire, thanks to the software he had developed.
Paying an impromptu visit to his school, Mike gazes at the photo of his old basketball team on display. He talks with the janitor, who asks him if he would prefer to live back then. Later that night when Mike tries to stop the mysterious janitor from jumping off a bridge, he somehow is transformed into himself as he was at 17. His attempt to convince the alarmed Ned of his identity is amusing, and his subsequent enrolling at his old high school offers all sorts of unusual opportunities when he becomes the classmate of his teenage daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and slightly younger son Alex (Sterling Knight)—and then there is wife Scarlett, who is amazed at the striking resemblance between the new friend whom Alex brings home and that of her husband during his youth.
As stated before, some of the ensuing events are touching, as well as funny, and some are too unbelievable, the latter centering mainly around friend Ned, who has agreed to serve as Mike’s “father” in order for enrollment in school. That Jane Masterson (Melora Hardin), trained and sophisticated enough to become the school Principal would put up with Ned’s crude wooing of her is too much. Best part of the film is Mike’s growing awareness of the problems of the children he had so long neglected, and even more, of the way in which his self-centered longing for “what might have been” has affected Scarlett. As Luke put it in his parable of the wayward son, Mike “comes to himself” and emerges as a better person.
1. How has Mike O’Donnell been living in the past since his high school graduation? How has this affected his relationship with Scarlet? Note their conversation in the backyard when Mike finds her digging it up: how are his various uncompleted projects symptomatic of his brokenness?
2. When the fantasy janitor asks Mike if he would like to live in the past again, what does Mike say? How is this all too often the story of high school sports stars? How is this a Peter Pan-like failing?
3. Which of the many situations seemed real and heart-fel
t, and which seemed contrived?
4. What do you think of Mike’s words to his daughter Maggie? “When you’re young everything feels like the end of the world. But it’s not it’s just the beginning, you might have to meet a few more jerks. but one day you’re gonna meet a boy who treats you the way you deserve to be treated. Like the sun rises and sets with you.” 5. What do you think of the “letter” that Mike reads in court to his about to become ex-wife? “Scarlett, before you go through this, I want to remind you of September 7th, 1988. It was the first time that I saw you. You were reading Less Than Zero, and you were wearing a Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt. I’d never seen anything so perfect. I remember thinking that I had to have you or I’d die… then you whispered that you loved me at the homecoming dance, and I felt so peaceful… and safe… because I knew that no matter what happened, from that day on, nothing can ever be that bad… because I had you. And then I, uh… I grew up and I lost my way. And I blamed you for my failures. And I know that you think you have to do this today… but I don’t want you to. But I guess… if I love you, I should let you move on.” What does this show about his new-found maturity? How is real love being willing to let go of the beloved, or as he puts it, “move on.”