Take Me Home Tonight is a quirky romantic comedy starring Topher Grace, Teresa Palmer, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler. It’s the summer of ’88. Token-80s-Smartest-Kid-in-School, Matt Franklin (Grace) has just graduated from MIT and is spending the summer working at a shitty video store in the mall. When the former Prom Queen, his High School Crush Tori Frederking (Palmer) walks in a well placed string of lies lands him with an opening to see her at a party later. With the help of his twin sister Wendy (Faris) and comically chubby, recently fired, best friend Barry (Fogler), Matt sets out to achieve that which he never could in High School: Getting Tori Frederking’s phone number.
|Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
The reason I even knew of the existence of this movie is below. It’s a video for Atomic Tom’s cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?” The cover isn’t very good. The video is fantastic. Give it a minute or so for the awesomeness to kick in.
I wanted to watch Take Me Home Tonight because of the fun that the cast clearly had making this video, and the obvious love and attention that they had paid to 80s movies. So, now that you’ve watched that awesomeness…
What we have in Take Me Home Tonight is a 2011 attempt at recapturing the greatness of the John Hughes/Brat Pack era 80s comedies. Director Michael Dowse (Fubar 1 & 2, It’s All Gone Pete Tong) and company try their hardest to not fall into the trap of making a period comedy that constantly pokes fun at the period. They clearly didn’t want to make a movie like The Wedding Singer where the film’s jokes are mostly “Ha ha! Remember the 80s? That shit was crazy.”
Take Me Home Tonight tries to have “the 80s” just be the film’s setting. More than that, in my opinion, they really try to just have this be an 80s movie. They clearly wanted this movie to look and feel like it could have been released in ’88. The plot is simple, the characters are the same ones you’ve seen a million times, the plot is driven by 2 parts character and 3 parts completely implausible, yet tired, situations. In a very weird way, it borrows from, pays homage to a laundry list of movies and actors, while never feeling like an outright parody.
The trouble, though, is that the film is trying to do too much. Sometimes it wants to be an 80s movie, derivative, predictable, but outrageous and funny. Sometimes it wants to be a goofball romantic comedy, with a not entirely unattractive but awkward and unsure leading man chasing after a hot girl that didn’t know he existed 90 minutes ago. Sometimes it’s a Transition-Into-Adulthood movie, with all of the characters wondering what they’ve done with their lives, and how they’re going to face the long, confusing, boring rest of it. It tries very hard to be funny, nostalgic, but relevant to today, all at the same time.
The trouble with trying to be all those things, is that you’re unlikely to pull it off. Instead of feeling real, the characters feel like cutouts. Instead of being nostalgic, the 80s setting ends up fading into the background. Instead of being funny, it feels like it’s trying to be moving or inspiring. Instead of being inspiring, it feels like it’s trying to be funny or outrageous. Nothing that this film tries to do ends up being accomplished in the end. It’s a mishmash of great ideas that aren’t pulled off.
Which is exactly why it ends up being terrific at one thing: Being an 80s movie. Seriously. With only a few notable exceptions, the even the best 80s teen/young adult comedies are fucking terrible. I love them, but I have to be honest. They’re unrealistic, cutout characters that don’t come off like real people in the least. The situations they get themselves into are fucking ludicrous. (Even the most realistic 80s comedy of all, The Breakfast Club, has the pot scene.) Once you combine the absolutely fantastic soundtrack with the fact that this movie desperately wants to be more than the sum of its parts, you have possibly the best 1980s comedy to be made in years.
That still only nets it 3 stars.