Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Take Me Home Tonight" (2011)

Starring Topher Grace, Dan Fogler and Anna Faris
Written by Jackie Filgo and Jeff Filgo
Directed by Michael Dowse
Rated R - Language, sex, drug use
Running Time: 97 minutes
Trailer (Red Band)

A film designed to evoke memories of John Hughes 80s comedies mixed with the raunchy R-rated comedies popular of late, "Take Me Home Tonight" unfortunately doesn't really succeed in its goals. 

In 1988, Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is a recent graduate of MIT who feels lost.  Though he's graduated from a prestigious school, he has no idea what he wants to do with his life and feels stuck working at a video store at the mall.  On this night, Matt, along with his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) are going to a massive Labor Day party hosted by Wendy's boyfriend Kyle (Chris Pratt) where Matt hopes to meet up with and impress his high school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer).

Barry, after spectacularly failing to make a sale at his job at a car dealership, is fired, and he decides that he's going to blow it out tonight at this party.  When Matt has an argument with his father (Michael Biehn) about finding some direction in his life, Barry convinces Matt to join him in stealing a red Mercedes from the car dealership to arrive at the party in style. 

At the party, Matt finally sees is "in" with Tori, and the two begin to hit it off.  Unfortunately, in his attempts to impress her, he told her he worked for Goldman Sachs.  As he grows closer, his guilt over starting their relationship on a lie begins to weigh on him.  Over the course of the night, the party will lead Matt and Tori into a series of adventures that bring them closer, while Barry's attempts at making the night more epic continue to backfire in his face, and Wendy confronts a truth about her status quo that she doesn't want to admit.

While it features a fine, if familiar, setup and even some good ideas and relatable, likeable characters, ultimately "Take Me Home Tonight" is just a big fat "meh" of a movie. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout the movie, but it rarely elicits more than a few chuckles.  The situations cry out for some real zingers, but the dialogue in the film is just so plain.  Much of the funniest material in the movie comes from pointed jabs at the culture of the 1980s. 

A dance-off between Barry and a bizarrely-dressed fool at the party is pretty hilarious in its embarrassment of Barry.  Probably the funniest bit in the entire film is a brief cameo by Demetri Martin as a wheelchair-bound former classmate of Matt's who actually does work at Goldman Sachs.  His foul-mouthed responses to Matt's lies are a riot, and his explanation for why he's in a wheelchair is even better (though, much of it is in the delivery). 

While the dramatic aspects of the film work well enough, the truth is that "Take Me Home Tonight" is a comedy, and it mostly fails at that.  The performances of the cast are fine, and the director does a fine job recreating the look and feel of the 1980s.  The sets and costumes are all appropriate, and it's weird to see Suncoast Video again.  (Did they all have the same layout?  Because, frankly, the Los Angeles Suncoast store in the movie looks just like the Danvers, MA one I grew up with. Oh well.)

It's a shame, though, because "Take Me Home Tonight" has a lot of potential with its talented cast and inspired setting.  But the script just isn't up to snuff, robbing the film of any energy the director or actors are able to impart.  All the pieces are in place for a hilarious period comedy filled with foul language, fun music, and funny situations... but it never comes together the way it should.