Did my eyes deceive me? A comedy about getting the girl, set in the ‘80s, and no John Cusack in sight? Is Hollywood evolving in some respects? After watching the 92 minute feature Take Me Home Tonight, the answer is a mild yes.
The overall storyline is pretty standard and all the staple characters – spoiled rich guy, the likeable loser/dreamer, the “it” girl, etc. – found in all these types of period comedies are still involved. What ends up separating the plethora of these coming-of-age flicks, is whether the script will focus on the characters or dwell on the nostalgia and behavior of the time period. In this story’s case, the ’80s gimmick.
MIT graduate Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is as smart as they come in his field of engineering. He’s almost “Rain Man” smart. For whatever reason, he chooses not to get a job using his expertise and decides to work at a video store in a Los Angeles mall. His father (Michael Biehn) is baffled by Matt’s lack of direction and continues to put the pressure on him to do something with his life. Matt is 22 and subscribes to the philosophy of not committing to something unless he is sure about. The only one who seems to support him is his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris). Also, his longtime best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) backs his every move. Frankly though, Barry can’t really comment on Matt’s life, since he bypassed college to become a car salesman. And not a real good one at that.
Matt begins to see classmates from his 1984 high school class while working his video store gig. Including his high school crush that he never talked to in Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer). All of a sudden, Matt’s life has a purpose. He believes he has a second chance to get the girl of his dreams. However, he realizes that his current stature in the world may be a turn-off. So he invents a new one. After spinning lies about a big financial career, he follows Tori to a party that all of his former classmates will be attending. Hosted by Sherman High School’s most popular student, the popped-collar wearing Kyle Masterson (Chris Pratt). Matt, Wendy and a ready to rock Barry, invade the party – each with their own agenda – and find themselves taking part in Motley Crue-like back stage shenanigans.
By reading the above plot summary, one might think that Matt will have to match wits with the popular Kyle Masterson in order to get Tori’s attention. And there has to an under-the-radar type girl who has always been by his side. Well, that’s not the case, and by side-stepping a few other similar clichés, is the reason why this particular ’80s coming-of-age concept flick evolved just enough. There is no climatic showdown between two people. It is basically Matt fighting against himself. This plot point becomes more substantial as the story opens up and will draw the audience in. Personally, this was a pleasant surprise, for the opening 15-20 minutes suggested that this could be going nowhere fast. Taking away some of the usual type-cast behavior of the characters adds a welcomed depth to the story. Or at least something different. Which is a relief because the comedic elements are not consistently strong enough to keep one entertained the entire duration.
With that being said, this is one of those flicks that benefit greatly from multiple viewings. The comedy will resonate more by a third viewing I believe. Certain scenes and/or characters are delivered in such an awkward way – which is done purposely – that the audience is caught off-guard. For instance, the dialogue interaction between Matt and the wheel-chair guy is meant to be funny, but it just isn’t the first time through. Reason being, the tweaking of how all the characters interact with each other deviates from the norm commonly found in these particular flicks. I guarantee that by the 2nd or 3rd viewing, that particular scene will derive a good chuckle.
As far as performances go, everyone was serviceable and did their part. Topher Grace has never been the most charismatic guy on screen. Though his career was born from a sitcom, he just isn’t that funny and really needs to be put in the right situations via the script. He does work well with the people around him though. Dan Fogler seems to channel a little Sam Kinison in his performance in both looks and vocal delivery. It might not be a bad idea to give his character “Barry Nathan” his own movie. One will wish that the writers loosened the noose just a bit more on Fogler’s character, for the results would have enhanced the entertainment value. If they did decide to go that route though, the story would have lost its balance and tone. That’s a tough trade-off to debate.
Anna Faris is just there and seems to be content in that role lately. The rest of the cast is just used to give the audience a break from the main plot of Matt and Tori, which ends up opening the door and letting in a handful of funny skits involving sex, drugs and, uh…Sex and drugs.
Overall, Take Me Home Tonight needs to be seen because its replay value down the road will be worth it. It really is one of those flicks that you’ll keep discovering funny moments that you didn’t catch the first time around. It does resemble late ’80s and early ’90s products and only incorporates a sample of unique concepts. So even though it deviates from the formula here and there, it may be too subtle for some to recognize the tweaks. Actually, it seems like an adult version of License to Drive in some respects, fused with a taste of Better Off Dead. Guess that equates to a homage piece then.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5