Take Me Home Tonight is an earnest attempt at a throwback 80′s comedy that earns points for some laughs but ultimately crosses the line from homage to cliche.
Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is a disillusioned MIT graduate in 1988 who finds himself terrified of the world and unsure of what to do for a living and takes a job at Suncoast (RIP) while he figures things out. His best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) is of little help as he is floundering in a job in car sales which he promptly loses. When Matt’s high school crush Tori (Theresa Palmer) shows up at Suncoast to buy some movies, Matt pretends to work for Goldman Sachs to impress her and lands himself an invite to the big party his twin sister’s (Ana Faris) boyfriend (Chris Pratt) is throwing and it looks like Matt and Barry’s fortunes might change…a thought that goes out the window when they bungle a luxury car burglary and Barry gets into some coke.
If the plot sounds familiar it is because you’ve seen it hundreds of times in other movies and there is very little here to differentiate it between any of the others. It is pretty obvious that they were going for homage but they didn’t bring anything new to the table at all and the whole thing feel like a been there done that kind of affair.
The film is funny but not as funny as something like Cant’ Hardly Wait or as vulgar and outrageous as something like Superbad. This is a real problem because it pretty much means the film is destined to fade into obscurity as there is nothing at all to set it apart or allow it to hang around. It is too bad too because the film had a genuine sense of earnestness and it looked like they were really trying. I wish the effort amounted to more.
I am also kind of puzzled about exactly why the movie was set in the 80′s in the first place. I know Grace wanted to make a classic John Hughes style 80′s comedy but throwing some popped collars, a destroyed red convertible and a killer 80′s soundtrack doesn’t really get it. The story is way to dogged with its adherence to the old one night to change everything with the girl who never knew you existed but has a heart of gold and is just waiting for the right guy to cut through the torture of popularity and find the diamond inside all that vapid rough. Had they taken the premise and thrown in a 500 Days of Summer style ending then maybe they would have had something. Still not something original but something else at least. As it is the whole plot hinges around this girl’s value to Matt when she is never assigned anything to make her worth his affection aside from her beauty and bracingly blue eyes. There is a half-hearted attempt to give her some substance with a story about a time when she helped Matt out of embarrassment when they were seven and he couldn’t get it together enough to kiss her in a Truth or Dare game, but we’ve seen that device before too and it doesn’t work here either. The movie gives Tori some substance as the film goes on but the initial reason Matt has pined over her for so long remains baffling.
The chemistry between the characters is uniformly good, particularly between Faris and Grace, which is nice given they are supposed to be twins. Likewise Fogler and Grace feel like they have been best friends for a long time. This helps the material along so at the very least it feels authentic if not fresh.
Even setting Chemistry aside the performances were strong across the board. Grace more or less did his thing not specifically invoking his That 70′s Show character Eric Foreman but definitely pulling from the same well. His performance was strong if not fresh and he managed to feel genuine throughout the entire production. Ana Faris was a bit low key here but managed to play her B story out in a convincing way. If you’ve not cared for her in the past, she might impress you here. Chris Pratt handles the douchy, popular boyfriend with aplomb and seemed to be having a great time. Theresa Palmer is handed a pretty thankless role as mostly she has to wander through the party looking earnest and slightly off put by what she sees around her and then being cool when she and Matt start to get close. Also her eyes are very, very blue.
Dan Fogler was the bright star in the film for me as I tend to enjoy just about everything he does. He is very funny here although he deserves better. Fogler’s line delivery and timing are right on target here but I wish he had more to do. Given better material he could have elevated the film but as it was he just helped keep it watchable.
There were a fair amount of pretty awesome appearances and cameos by various and sundry comics and hip actors that were fun. I also enjoyed the lack of stunt casting that often goes on in these films where they get some 80′s icon and have them play themselves doing goofy things. The cameos were funny people doing funny things that had nothing to do with the decade in which the film was set. I hope more movies like this at least extend us that courtesy.
Conclusion [6.5 out of 10]
Take Me Home Tonight has some laughs and it has some heart but it really isn’t anything new or notable. I wanted to like it a lot and I was hoping it would be great but sadly there just isn’t enough to differentiate it from any number of other movies. I would recommend it as a date movie perhaps but when I asked my girlfriend what number grade she would give it, she went with a 5.5 or 6. Dan Fogler was worth an extra half a point for me I guess. Probably not a bad rental to snuggle to though.