Take Me Home Tonight is the latest 80s throwback film that focuses on a crazy weekend party in a similar vein to Superbad, including everything from drug usage to car crashes. While it’s great at paying homage to that iconic era and generating feelings of nostalgia, it falls short of being a memorable comedy because of its mediocre jokes, predictable ending and overstated themes of adulthood-phobia.
Topher Grace plays Matt Franklin, a 23-year old who still lives at home with his parents and his twin sister Wendy, played by Anna Faris. He is a recent MIT graduate who can’t decide what to do with his life. As a result, he is working as a clerk at a video store in a local mall, selling himself short. His father is understandably furious with him for not getting a real job after spending so much money at MIT and seizes every chance he can to remind him.
Throughout his teen years, Matt harbored a secret crush for a girl named Tori Frederking, played by Teresa Palmer. He never had the courage to act on his crush, but he is given another chance when Tori walks into his video store and back into his life. Not being able to bear the thought of explaining his current profession, Matt pretends to be a customer as well and strikes up a conversation. In hopes of impressing her, he lies and says that he is working as a banker at Goldman Sachs. Tori is impressed and casually mentions a party she is attending later. Matt nonchalantly says he might see her later while mentally vowing to be at that party and finally ask her for her number.
All of a sudden, Matt’s directionless life has meaning again. His best friend Barry, played by Dan Fogler, is happy to hear the news and vows to help him keep up the illusion that Matt is a successful banker. Unfortunately, a few moments later, Barry is unceremoniously fired from his car salesman job. This is devastating to him, and he proceeds to get cripplingly drunk before the party even starts.
This in turn leads to a string of bad decisions that involves stealing a Mercedes convertible from the car dealership for Matt to drive to the party. They also discover cocaine in the glove box, which Barry decides to put in his suit pocket, just in case. Hilarity ensues as they encounter wild parties, bizarre hook ups and a mysterious ball. If only the movie had focused on the funny parts.
While there are fair shares of funny moments, this movie is seemingly stuck between comedy and drama. There are several buzz kill scenes where we are forced to listen to Matt and Tori whine about their lives, which, from the outsider’s perspective don’t seem all that bad.
Turns out Tori hates her successful job at a banking firm. In a time where college grads are struggling to find any jobs at all, it is a little hard to sympathize with her. Matt is even worse because he can’t even bring himself to apply for a real job. This makes his character a little annoying. Yes, growing up is hard and scary, but we all have to do it eventually.
In addition to their less than sympathetic job woes, the love story between Tori and Matt also seems a bit contrived. The audience knows immediately what’s going to happen and how’s it going to end, and the movie writer’s don’t even bother trying to shake up the ending. In fact, they seem to draw on the audience’s preconceived notions to meld certain situations together or pass off an awkward moment as a romantic one for the sake of advancing the love relationship.
If it weren’t for the shenanigans of Barry, this movie would have been a snooze fest. His jokes may not be that funny due to subpar writing, but his execution was spot on. While it is not condonable that Barry does indeed use the cocaine he found, the situations he gets himself into are hilarious to watch. First, there is the case of a buxom red-head who prepositions him into sex in exchange for drugs but insists on letting her creepy significant other watch. He also gets himself into a hilarious dance battle with a typical 80s guy that features all the beloved dance moves of that decade in a new way.
Another highlight of this movie is the great 80s music soundtrack which older audiences are sure to love. While sometimes it was overtly used by the movie producers as a tool to show that yes, Tori and Matt are falling in love now, overall it was a great underlying theme to the movie. The wardrobe also played into the 80s theme, including everything from neon to mullets to leather jackets. Every 80s cliché possible in terms of music and wardrobe was used, but in order to create a good 80s comedy, you need more than that.
Overall, this movie was an enjoyable experience, although not memorable. It is a mostly fun 80s comedy that will not go down in history as a great one. I would recommend waiting for DVD release on this one.