Month of Feels: Seventeen Again (2000)
Summer is winding down to a close but summer movies are not! From Eighth Grade to Sorry to Bother You to Crazy Rich Asians (and not to mention the Netflix hits), 2018’s summer has seen quite a lot of great, interesting movies so far. So, why then, does MoviePass have to be going through all of its difficulties now 😭 when there are so many more movies I still need to watch! As an update for y’all, I’m still waiting to see Blackkklansmen and Searching! In the meantime, as we all know, I’ve been feeling all the feels since my new Favorite Movie Of All Time came out and so I thought I’d dub September as the Month of Feels (before the Month of Spooks, naturally) and expose all my favorite Rom-Coms (or -Drams). And what better feel-good rom-com to kick off the month than Seventeen Again from 2000 directed by Jeffrey W. Byrd. As the original to the Zac Efron rendition from 2009, Seventeen Again stars Tia and Tamera Mowry (as well as Tahj Mowry) as a grandma-granddaughter duo who must deal with the effects of a reverse aging chemical. Tia is the granddaughter, Sydney, in this duo while Tamera plays Grandma Cat who turns seventeen again alongside Grandpa Gene (played handsomely by Mark Taylor).
What inducts Seventeen Again into the Rom-Com Greats, in my opinion, is that it’s simply perfect. That’s it.
JK! But as we all know, the best romantic movies are products of the perfect blend between predictability and tenderness. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before accomplished this to a tee and so did Seventeen Again. Grandparents Cat and Gene (as their older selves) are divorced and have a tension-filled relationship, constantly bickering and clawing at each other, much to the dismay of the rest of the family. Stewart S. John, the screenwriter, does a good job of setting up the film so that a substantial part of the film is spent on displaying the clashes between the two grandparents. And this starts to get at two of my favorite Rom-Com tropes: Haters to Lovers™ (or Foe-Yay) and Comedy of Remarriage. In fact, the trope of a broken up couple getting back together always hits a sweet spot to me, regardless of romantic genre. The combination of these two tropes sets up a nice banter-filled chemistry between the two leads, and you know I love chemistry. And because of a chemical experiment gone wrong (thank you Tahj), Cat and Gene find their bodies aged back to their seventeen year old selves. Jealousy ensues, sparks fly, and it’s so sweet!
Plot-wise, it is a little ridiculous and you definitely need to go in with a little suspension of disbelief. But it’s so easy to do that once you witness the chemistry between Tamera Mowry’s character and Mark Taylor’s (who is a stunner)! In the context of the tension set up between the couple, it’s almost conniving how fun it is to see Cat and Gene try to get the other jealous when they’re seventeen again. There is a side plot of Sydney and Cat getting mixed up by another boy (they are twins after all) which I thought was unnecessary but, in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t bother me that much because Gene got so jealous. As a romantic comedy, there is, unfortunately, bound to be some questionable plot decisions, and that includes the pettiness of what originated Cat and Gene’s marriage downfall in the first place. It’s slightly underwhelming but I think it does speak to the volatility of their relationship perhaps. They just love each other so much, you know? And this review, frankly, will be a recap of some of my favorite moments from the film, because it is filled with so many sweet, tender moments.
A favorite scene of mine, which will stick with me forever and I’ll probably write a scene similar to this in my own future TV show, is one in which young Cat and Gene are at a jazz club together. Sydney’s run away and they go searching for her, but are delightfully (and unfortunately for Sydney) distracted by the sweet tunes of nostalgic jazz that remind them of their young romance. It’s like a good version of La La Land (2016). So good in fact that seeing Tamera’s little black dress makes me wanna go out and buy a new little black dress. And there are actually two parts to this that I love, the first obviously being the more upbeat, funktastic dance scene that happens, and the second being the conversation that takes place after. The club plays a slower, more tender song, and Cat begins to feel awkward and suggests they leave. Gene, who’s clearly caught in the love he feels for Cat, pleads for One Last Dance (another great trope) and it’s to their song! Their vulnerability is really what makes it so sweet. Just please take my bleeding heart already. With slow jazz in the background, and Gene cupping Cat’s tearful face, it’s a great tender moment between our two broken lovebirds. Knowing their backstory as a divorced couple, their reunion is so satisfying to see play out because you know that despite their disagreements, their relationship is still a commitment that needs active effort to upkeep, which I think is a very #real thing. The story is based on chemical age experiments and whatnot but is, at the end of the day, rooted in two people who love each other actively working to stay together. It is for moments like these that are sprinkled throughout the film, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that make watching romantic comedies so satisfying (and hopeless).
P.S. If you couldn’t already tell, this original Seventeen Again isn’t a white movie! Bless!