Might contain spoilers.
I concede that the movie hasn’t aged well in some important ways, but I like it nonetheless, aided
by Matthew Perry’s effortless humour and especially the charm and charisma of Zac Efron, whose
transformation from the guy who
looks like he mugged K-Fed to a cool, graceful, Audi-driving
heartthrob is immensely satisfying. (I did enjoy how he loses his poise as soon as the bell rings.)
The way ‘Mark’ dissects Stan the bully’s insecurities while effortlessly spinning a basketball is
unforgettable. The moments of Mark being reminded of his real life, like the climactic game, are
convincing and believable, and so are the moments when he forgets he’s not outwardly Mike.
There are quite a few uncomfortable scenes, starting with the girls throwing themselves at Mark at the party. I can only pity Michelle Trachtenberg as the embarrassingly vapid daughter who becomes infatuated with Mark when he comforts her (which comes after she breaks up with the aforementioned Stan). And even if we know the truth, everyone at the party sees Mark kissing Alex and Maggie’s mother.
Ned simply wouldn’t be acceptable today: his interactions with Mike are funny, but his pursuit of Jane is exceedingly creepy and disrespectful of her boundaries at every stage. He practically buys a date with her. I’m not sure she ever speaks to anyone other than Ned and Mark, save for when she whistles to force the students to leave the party; she exists to reject Ned, be won over by his nerdiness, reject him once more, and embrace him once more. Nicole similarly exists only to be won over by Alex, but at least they’re both amusingly nervous, awkward teenagers.
I really like Leslie Mann as the always-slightly-lost Scarlet. Her relationship with her husband is another core pillar of the story: it’s easy to understand the love and sadness. I’m glad she, at least, notices that Mark looks exactly like her husband at that age.
I know Mike has to leave the fake letter at the court for Scarlet to find, but won’t the bailiff have noticed he was reading out a blank page? Couldn’t anyone have seen it? I suppose everyone is so disinterested it doesn’t matter (witness the judge who can barely contain her disbelief when Scarlet says she’d like to hear the letter). Still, Mark reading it out makes for a moving scene.
Of course there’d be another do-or-die basketball match like the one from Mike’s youth, and of course it would unfold in the same way and he’d abandon it in the same way with small adjustments.