The commercials for this movie do it a major disservice by making it look like your average transformation Big or Freaky Friday movie starring Chandler Bing and Zac Efron. It is that, but it's also more than it appears to be on the surface. The movie is about teen basketball phenom Mike O'Donnell, who doesn't go to college because his girlfriend is pregnant and ends up 20 years later as a disgruntled pharmaceutical rep (Matthew Perry) on the verge of a divorce with two teenage kids who hate his guts. He wishes he could go back and do it over, so a magic janitor turns him into a teenager, but he stays in present day. He discovers that he's on a path to help his wife (Leslie Mann) realize that her husband isn't a total loser, and to assist his kids (Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg) in turning their lives around. There's a ridiculous number of shots of Zac Efron shirtless or playing basketball. There's obligatory near-incest moments and cougar references. There's tons of typical high-school behavior (thankfully, it's more of the Mean Girls variety and less of the High School Musical drivel). But tucked in among all of this solid, amusing, but typical A-story drama is a B-plot that really takes the entire film to a new level.
Back in the '80s, Mike had a best friend who was a nerd, the guy who was given wedgies and stuffed in lockers because he wore a wizard costume to school. But in present day, that nerdy guy is Ned Gold (played by the scene-stealing Thomas Lennon). He's gone from school nerd to king of the geeks. He invented anti-piracy music software and the software to help people steal music. He's put his infinite wealth to good use, buying every collectible and comic book out there. His house is like a movie/comic museum, and he's pretty much my hero. So below are the reasons that he elevates this movie's geek status tenfold.
1. Lightsaber fight
Just to call this a lightsaber fight between Thomas Lennon and Zac Efron is underselling it. It has some awesome lightsaber moves in it, but it also involves gladiator helmets, an ancient axe, a sword in a stone and a foosball table. I want this movie on DVD ASAP so I can just re-watch that scene over and over again.
2. Landspeeder bed
Most kids dream of a racecar bed, but little Ned presumably fantasized about a landspeeder bed, because with all his grown-up cash, he bought one, and it is awesome. I'm really jealous.
I don't want to spoil things too much, but there's a scene where he speaks in Elvish in an attempt to woo a certain principal Jane Masterson (Melora Hardin), and it blew my mind. I never knew Elvish could be so sexy! Take that, Liv Tyler!
4. Reading Material
When he finds out that his best friend has been returned to his 17-year-old body, he freaks (naturally) but then gets down to research. He plucks every comic, mythology book, sci-fi novel about body transformations in his library to find out what happens. It leads to a fantastic conversation about vampires, cyborgs and spirit guides.
In another attempt to woo the school principal, he decides to wear flashy and inappropriately shiny clothes, as it is his plan to catch her eye with overkill. This basically amounts to Ned wearing the most bizarre outfits on the planet and straddling a chair to flaunt his manliness.
6. Fast Cars
The Fast and the Furious isn't the only film out right now with a high-speed vehicle. The adorkable Ned loves sports cars and careening through streets with a police siren.
7. Mad Gaming Skills
Why play one online game at once when you can have several massive monitors going with computer chess and Xbox all at the same time? He also has one of those fancy Sharper Image-y chairs that has the surround sound built right into the headrest. I had major tech envy!
8. His Regular Wardrobe
Sure his peacocking clothes are over-the-top insanity, but I'm sort of jealous of his classic Star Wars shirt and Spock ears. Both of which were part of his everyday attire, it wasn't like he was just dressed for comic-con or something.
9. Willing To Lie
He's got no problem lying that young Mike is his son, and he's happy to put his Photoshop knowledge to good use in order to create fake transcripts and any other documents that might be needed. He also Photoshopped a few convincing looking photos of himself as Han Solo.
10. Nerd Speak
Ned speaks my language, from arguments about Gandalf the Grey vs. Gandalf the White to being grateful that he's out of high school because he doesn't get his head stuck in a toilet. He's communicating on a level that I can relate to, and that's something I wasn't expecting in a movie starring Zac Efron.
Again, this film does have all the trappings of pretty much every other body transformation movie, and if you go you'll probably be surrounded by squealing teenage girls who worship Efron, but thanks to Thomas Lennon and some clever writing, it is actually surprisingly watchable and geek-friendly.
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