Take Me Home Tonight Directed by: Michael Dowse Cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer Running Time: 1 hr 54 mins Rating: R Release Date: March 4, 2011
PLOT: A college grad (Grace) doesn't know what to do with his life and decides to pursue his dream girl (Palmer) at a wild party on one crazy summer night.
WHO'S IT FOR? Although the party comedy is set in the 1980's and features twenty-somethings, the humor (and message) will probably be best received by those who are in their late high school or college years. It's for the same type of crowd that think parties are always funny, but they can also handle a little "awkward romance" on the side ... even if this means that the movie's target audience wouldn't even be alive during the actual 80's.
EXPECTATIONS: "Hmm, a script co-written by Topher Grace with Take Me Home Tonight as the title? Oh, jeez. Do we need a Hot Tub Time Machine sequel already? And how many bar-jukebox friendly songs will make up the soundtrack?"
Topher Grace as Matt Franklin: It's a relatable character in one way or another, but for Grace it feels a bit too familiar to fully embrace. When brainstorming an equal for Matt Franklin, one could get into "That's 70's Show" comparisons, or even Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! territory. It's all fitting, yet it at least proves that Topher Grace is adept at providing tangible social underdogs. He continues that heroism here, especially for those who relate to his late-bloomer characters more than they would like to. Score: 5
Dan Fogler as Barry Nathan: As Grace plays “awkward loser,” Fogler takes up the more immediate reins as the “wacky loser,” while being at the center of many awkward moments. Experimenting with drugs, fast women, and fast cars, Barry parties like he thinks he should, which allots for hit-and-miss moments of comedy. Some of his antics are funny even if they’re “old hat” for the genre (random, later regretted drug use), while others admittedly fall flat. Still, Fogler proves to be a decent goofy sidekick amongst moments that can otherwise be very serious (this was even the case in Fanboys). Score: 5
Anna Faris as Wendy Franklin: The first act of the movie has an inclination towards prankiness that makes a film like Porky's fun to watch. During these shenanigans, Faris spends most of the time making a surprised yet very amused expression of giddiness, illuminating the reckless fun happening within the story. Wendy's happiness in the movie is admittedly contagious, which makes her easy to hook onto considering her own subplot about being at a crossroads in life's decisions. Score: 5
Teresa Palmer as Tori Frederking: She's the one that got away, but this is a "dream girl" that's actually believable (save for her sexual willingness). Palmer makes for a good target in which Grace's character has his eyes set on, and her honesty in both her words and construction make her an enjoyable figurative finish line. Score: 5
TALKING: The movie makes frugal usage of 80's vernacular, like "cool it," etc. For the record, the phrase "take me home tonight" isn't even said in the film. The dialogue is solid, especially for dramatic scenes (which aren't very fresh themselves) that could easily have lost their mojo to cliches. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Like with the music, the heavy colors and different styles of 80’s fashion are not given a comical attention in the film. There are couple of random references to Back to the Future, including a Delorean parked outside the fancier party in the second half of the film, even though that film plays no part in the story, etc. Other movies are given slight nods by a sad recreation, (sad because they’re gone), of a Suncoast Video store. And since this is the 80’s, cocaine has a decent part in the chaos of the plot, leading up to an airbag gag that could garner up huge laughter. Score: 5
SOUNDS: While Take Me Home Tonight is certainly a very 80’s movie, the soundtrack does not use a group of tunes that now belong more to drunken singalongs than they may actual memories. For one, there’s no overdone, ironically loved Journey songs like “Don’t Stop Believing." Though the movie goes wall-to-wall with its timely tunes a la American Graffiti, it doesn’t draw much attention to its soundtrack, especially for a movie with such a title. Instead, songs become part of memories, like when Fogler and Grace are rapping aggressively to N.W.A as they cruise around in a stolen car before showing up at the big party. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: Demetri Martin basically does stand-up while in his wheelchair cameo, but it's perfect. However, too brief. If only this movie (made around 2007) knew just how priceless his humor is.
ENDING: Matt takes a spin in hopes of defeating the story's true villain ... himself.
QUESTIONS: Why did this movie have to pick such a crappy turn-off of a title?
REWATCHABILITY: A second viewing would be fine, but the jokes would probably run thin. However, getting a second look (and laugh) at Demetri Martin's brief appearance would certainly be enjoyable.
Take Me Home Tonight mixes nostalgia with honesty, while being very self-contained and respectful towards the decade it dedicates itself to. The film doesn’t resort to stretching out its characters beyond a recognizable point, which supports the film’s goal of being honest with its message. For such a terrible title (yes, I’m going to mention it again), the movie does have some surprising components. It’s not a movie that relies on any bits of the irony that has made the 80’s such a hip concept for the retro audience. Thankfully, for example, the Back to the Future references are a bit subtle. Even more thankfully, the cheesier tunes from the decade are nowhere to be heard. And when the secretly somber tune of “Come On Eileen” is heard as Matt feels alone in a crowd of fellow twenty-somethings holding onto their last moments of youth before meeting uncertain adulthood, it actually means something. It’s not just an accessory, nor just a winking moment.
While the script can surprise its audience with some real characters in what feel like real life situations, it does have a tendency to run dry on laughs. Simply put, the film’s comedy is pretty unpredictable, in the sense that it’s never guaranteed. Grace has (rightfully) said himself that Take Me Home Tonight is a movie that feels like its been in a vault since the 80’s, as if it was made amongst the time of numerous comedies this one attempts to equal. Perhaps if Take Me Home Tonight were to exist in that time, (or 1986, when Eddie Money's song came out) its humor might strike as more fresh. Now, in the 2000s, its a bit too much outdated.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10