Take Me Home Tonight

Cast:
Topher Grace as Matt Franklin
Anna Faris as Wendy Franklin
Dan Fogler as Barry Nathan
Teresa Palmer as Tori Frederking
Chris Pratt as Kyle Masterson
Michael Biehn as Bill Franklin
Jeanie Hackett as Libby Franklin
Lucy Punch as Shelly
Michelle Trachtenberg as Ashley
Demetri Martin as Carlos
Michael Ian Black as Pete Bering
Bob Odenkirk as Mike
Angie Everhart as Trish Anderson
Jay Jablonski as Benji
Edwin Hodge as Bryce
Candace Kroslak as Ally
Nathalie Kelley as Beth
Wade Allain-Marcus as Broder
Robert Hoffman as Tyler ‘Dance Machine’ Jones
Ryan Bittle as Rick Herrington
Bruce Nelson as Officer Frank Johnson
Seth Gabel as Brent
James Sharpe as Steven
Erin Eisenhower as Tyler’s Girlfriend

Directed by Michael Dowse

Story:
After graduating M.I.T., Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is working a dead-end job at a video store but a chance encounter wit his unrequited high school crush Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), Matt decides to make up for lost time, so he, his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) and his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) hit a party where they know she’ll be in hopes Matt will get another chance with her.

Analysis:
Movies sit on the shelf for years for lots of different reasons and knowing the history of such a film makes it hard not to pre-judge it, but it’s not like “Take Me Home Tonight” lost anything with its timeliness since its rather obvious homage to ’80s movies, particularly those of John Cusack.

It’s mostly a starring vehicle for Topher Grace from “That ’70s Show,” who also acts as a producer, exploring the life of a college graduate trying to find direction in life and still having trouble getting over a lost opportunity with a high school crush. When said crush happens into the video store where he’s working, he lies to her and then spends the night following her from party to party. But first, he steals a car along with his friend Barry from the latter’s auto dealership where he had just been fired, and Matt’s twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) comes along for the ride since it’s her boyfriend Kyle throwing the party.

At least the first half of the movie has a strange madcap tone that’s somewhat off-putting and most of that can be blamed on Dan Fogler’s incessant schtick, which takes some getting used to, although he does have some funnier scenes later in the movie. The problem is that we’ve seen plenty that have done this sort of raunchy humor better, whether it’s “Superbad” or “EuroTrip” or “Sex Drive” or anything by Todd Phillips. “Take Me Home Tonight” offers very little new except to set it to an ’80s soundtrack. Watching this movie so soon after Anthony Burns’ “Skateland” makes one realize how much better a film can handle the period in a far subtler manner that doesn’t overpower the story.

It might be obvious that the movie takes place in 1988 from the “Whitney” posters in a record store, but more curious is how old the characters are supposed to be, since we’re told they graduated high school in 1984, which would mean they would all be in their early 20s. Granted this film was made four years ago, but checking the ages of some of the actors like Fogler and Faris and Lucy Punch all acting ten years younger makes one wonder if so many older actors were cast to make Grace look younger.

Even so, Grace is one of the film’s main saving graces because he’s generally likeable enough and not as wishy-washy as we’ve seen him in other things. More than that, it’s his pairing with Teresa Palmer that makes the second half of the film tolerable. She perfectly captures the ’80s LA accent of Molly Ringwald in John Hughes’ early films, and her romantic chemistry with Grace is sweet enough to make up for how far the movie goes in trying to be funny. On the other hand, Anna Faris has been better, and she’s underused other than a relatively fun story arc involving her dickish jock boyfriend Kyle and him trying to exert control over her by proposing.

The movie slowly finds its footing as the threesome go from one party to another, and it wisely forgets about the distracting ’80s tunes to focus on the characters, though one has to imagine that in the hands of a better director, this would have been a far more consistent and funny comedy.

The Bottom Line:
Not the most horrendous comedy you’re likely to see, especially once it gets away from the ’80s pretensions, though its abuse of nostalgia is more frustrating than entertaining and the same can be said for Dan Fogler.

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