Effron breaks from Disney mold, cast shines in ‘State of Play’

By Trevor Hale, Red Pulse Editor

17 Again

Call it “Big” in reverse or 30 going on 13, but any way you label it, this movie has been done before8212;but this time, there’s somewhat of a twist. Instead of a kid fulfilling the fantasy of being older, “17 Again” goes backward, giving Mike O’Donnell (played by both Zac Efron and Matthew Perry) a chance to do exactly what the title suggests. Only instead of everything being fun and games (which it is for a while) things take on a whole new meaning and give the movie a factor that borders on creepy and inappropriate from time to time.

Efron is a star in the making8212;that’s a sure thing. He’s been limited to Disney fluff so far, but with “17 Again,” you get a sense that in five years, he’s going to be the most sought-after actor in town. He just needs to get a few more movies under his belt for that to happen. Efron anchors the movie with charm, but his overall performance is hurt by the supporting cast. Director Burr Steers surrounds Efron with talented comedy actors8212;Thomas Lennon in particular8212;and Efron isn’t quite sure how to handle it. He has no problem holding the film on his own, but when it comes to playing off the performance of others, he seems lost.

For all the positive performances in the film, there are more than a few moments that are just plain strange. O’Donnell, in his 17-year-old body, still tries to be the father figure in his kids’ lives and tries to figure out how to reconcile his marriage with his estranged wife, Scarlett (Leslie Mann). Only the kids think he’s just the cool new guy in school and they never seem weirded out that he knows just a little too much about them or tries to put the moves on his mom while hanging out at the house.

Once again, Efron is only going to get bigger8212;there’s no denying that. He just needs to get a few more solid films under his belt before people other than tween girls and gay men can accept it.

State of Play

Sometimes movies stretch what little plot they have so thin that it’s hard to even remember what it was in the first place. On the other hand, you have movies like “State of Play” which have almost too much plot, making another viewing necessary to really get a handle on every little thing. It takes talent to make the latter work, and luckily, this movie has more than enough to go around.

Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is a seasoned investigative journalist for the Washington Globe assigned to a story about a couple of murders that are seemingly unrelated at first. As the film goes on, more and more threads start to surface and the story only gets bigger. Of course, the Metropolitan Police Department sees this as an official case and the two institutions continue to butt heads.

The actual story might be a bit on the convoluted side8212;a fault that could be attributed to the fact that it’s an adaptation of a mini-series as much as it might be writer Tony Gilroy’s (Michael Clayton, the Bourne films) brain. But every character in the film is played by a solid actor that fully inhabits the role. Crowe and Helen Mirren are great as usual and Rachel McAdams has grown into a fine young actress since her days in “Mean Girls.”

However, the two biggest surprises here are Ben Affleck and Jason Bateman. Ever since he hit the comeback trail with “Arrested Development,” Bateman has knocked it out of the park in just about everything he’s been in and this is no exception. The other surprise is Affleck. Say what you will about the man’s personal life and some of the questionable film choices he’s made, but he can still deliver a great performance8212;particularly a juicy monologue.

“State of Play” runs a little on the heavy side, but never once was it boring. It starts with a bang and goes out the same way, but director Kevin Macdonald and his great cast know just how much to slow things down to keep everything on track.

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