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Elizabeth Banks

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17 Again, Taken Way Too Seriously

Posted: 04/28/09 05:16 PM ET

I went to see 17 Again this past weekend. Not because I have an 11-year-old daughter. Not because I am an HSM fan -- never seen it! No, I plunked down my soft-earned money for this flick for one reason: I am a 3?-year-old woman inappropriately lustful for Zac Efron (Ya got me, media, especially you, GQ!).

First, a disclaimer: I really enjoyed this movie and everybody's performances in it (I do like working in this town). Zac Efron did not disappoint. He's charming, makes use of many fingers while "twirling a basketball" (you get it) and looks great with his shirt off (some term that "star power"). At one point, I drooled.

Here's the thing though -- the message of the movie seemed to be (and again, I may just be reading too much into the twirling fingers thing): knocking up your high school sweetheart is A-OK! Especially if you give up that Syracuse scholarship to marry her! F College!

Now, I am all for taking responsibility. I am. Which is why I wish this flick had dealt more directly with this little situation that served as the jumping off point for a PG-13 movie (attended by lots of kids not yet in the double digits). It tries to make up for it with a scene in which Margaret Cho tells us that "abstinence is best but let's get real: just use condoms when you're screwing around with each other." Now, that statement at least gets close to something: if you are going to have sex, be safe. (Question: Why didn't Hunter Parrish also take his shirt off in this flick?)

Unfortunately, this scene would have had a lot more impact if Zac Efron's character not only acknowledged that sex can lead to babies but also that having a kid when you're 18 is hard, hard, hard. (Spoiler alert: he should know, see, 'cuz that's what got him into this crazy mess!) Also, he doesn't want his daughter (again, born when he was 18) to have sex with her high-school sweetheart yet his most powerful argument against it -- HAVING A KID WHEN YOU ARE JUST GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL IS HARD -- I KNOW, I'M REALLY YOUR DAD! -- never comes up. He's just like, "fingers crossed!" Now, of course, the daughter does not have sex (totally unrealistically) and ends up lusting after Mr. Efron (totally realistically, who wouldn't) and it's creepy and weird.

My point here (sorry, I was looking up "image Hunter Parrish" on Google and got off-track) is that this movie pretty much glamorizes teenage parenting. It basically says: Go for it! Have a kid when you're 18. Throw another one in for good measure right after and you'll get a nice house, deck and hammock included, your baby mama apparently won't need to work, your kids will eventually have iPods and get into Georgetown and the person you picked (when you were 17) is actually your soulmate! Don't worry if the condom breaks -- it's cool! It's totally worked out for Bristol, ya'll! (Is it me or is Levi cute?)

The problem with this message is that, according to unreliable online sources and my own anecdotal evidence collected over my 3?-something years: this is crap. It's a great Hollywood story (I really enjoyed this movie, did I say that?) but in reality, teenage parents (mothers, especially) face increased levels of poverty, lower education rates, and higher chances that their daughters will also end up teenage moms and their sons will end up in jail. (I would like to see Zac Efron and Hunter Parrish fight Channing Tatum in a jail flick).

An interesting thing about the movie is that there's a message buried in it -- there's a fun thread of social satire pointing out that kids today obviously live in an overly-sexualized world that glamorizes the act so much, they practically have no choice but to bang each other (one cheerleading sequence took me back, the other disturbed me). But the satire was above the pay grade of the 8 year-old sitting behind me. I'm pretty sure he/she (what's with all the long hair?) saw the movie like this: out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy leads to falling off a bridge into a magic tornado, inappropriate dancing between a MILF and the star of HSM, buying cool Ray Bans with your rich friend's Black Amex, winning back the girl and, finally, running through a magic tunnel that makes your clothes suddenly fit you even though you just instantly gained 40 pounds.

Now suspension of disbelief is no problem. Seriously, this film is a fun ride. I just wish the flick had explicitly mentioned, just mentioned, that it might not be cool to have a kid when you're 18 so for G-D's sake, use birth control! Matthew Perry admits to Leslie Mann he's been in a bad mood for 20 years. Well, having a kid when you're still one yourself might do that to you! Say it out loud. For the sake of the 8-year-olds.