The go-go ‘80s get another loving celluloid tribute with Take Me Home Tonight, a film that succeeds (but just barely), not by poking fun at the decade of leg warmers, big hair, and even bigger cell phones, but rather by embracing the charm of its endearing lead actors.
Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer display a once-in-a-career chemistry that, while not enough to elevate the film to greatness, does provide enough spark to make it better than just bearable, and even likeable at times. It also makes us wonder why this guy hasn’t risen to A-list star status. In his less-than-spectacular film career (highlighted by a wasted villain role in Spider-man 3 and Predators), Grace has proven so much better than That ‘70s Show co-star and ineffectual hack, Ashton Kutcher in nearly every way. Yet, he can’t seem to get that breakout role. Perhaps it’s just taking an especially long time to recover from the bad mojo of the awful Win a Date With Tad Hamilton from a few years back.
In Take Me Home Tonight, Grace is not only the film’s executive-producer, but also stars as Matt, a brainy under-achiever fresh out of MIT toiling in the stacks of a Sun Coast video store while contemplating his future. A chance encounter with his high school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer, a dead-ringer for Kristen Stewart) leads him to a sort of high school-reunion party where the film spends nearly the remainder of its runtime. It’s one of those all-in-one-night comedies in the spirit of American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused, where the characters gain a lifetime of worldliness in a single night.
Matt’s close circle consists of his best bud and comic sidekick, Barry (John Belushi-esque Dan Fogler) who skipped college to sell luxury cars; and his sister Wendy (Anna Faris), who’s involved with a pastel-polo-shirt-wearing preppy named Kyle (Chris Pratt) in a relationship-of-convenience sure to drain her higher ambitions. With his mother and father (Michael Biehn and Jeanie Hackett) growing increasingly impatient with Matt’s aimlessness, the pressure is on to settle on a life direction - a decision he’ll soon be forced to make when his summer of 1988 is about to collide with Tori Federking.
So as Matt, Barry and Wendy head out to Kyle’s annual blowout Labor Day bash, they first stop at Barry’s dealership to “borrow” his boss’s shiny, red 1988 Mercedes convertible to aid Matt’s ruse to Tori that he’s a high-powered finance guy working at Goldman Sachs. A big bag of cocaine discovered in the glove compartment, and a side trip to a hoity-toity party in Beverly Hills provide all the “lifetime of worldliness” Matt needs to finally put an end to his silent protest to maturity.
Take Me Home Tonight works as a shadow of a John Hughes film (but is not in any way as good as a Hughes film), as it follows the renowned filmmaker’s well-worn (but lucrative) path of teen dorkiness, endearing characters and embarrassing awkwardness. Though set in the late ‘80s, Jackie and Jeff Filgo's story feels like it could take place at any time. As if the filmmakers shot it in the ‘80s, shoved it in the can for 20 years, and then dusted it off for current audiences. They clearly set out to focus on universal themes about young people trying to figure out their futures, while not making in-jokes about big cell phones, gerri curls, or Rubik’s cubes. Because of that, it’s completely accessible to today’s audience who may be too young to “get” the references.
As expected, the soundtrack is deserving of mention as well. It rolls through the usual cadre of period classics like Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Come On Eileen and Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance, but it’s the unexpected inclusions of Pete Townshend’s Let My Love Open the Door and Grace Jones’s rendition of Warm Leatherette that give a friendly tip of the hat to we veteran’s of the era. On a curious side note, Eddie Money’s titular number is suspiciously missing.
The film, shot way back in early 2007, was shelved supposedly due to its heavy drug and alcohol use, but thanks to Grace’s Executive-producer perseverance, and his undiscovered lead-actor charm (OK, also the backing of Grazer and Howard’s Imagine Entertainment train), Take Me Home Tonight finally sees the light of day to show us that it’s once again fun to party like it’s 1988.
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and drug use.
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Jackie and Jeff Filgo
Cast: Topher Grace; Teresa Palmer; Anna Faris; Dan Fogler; Chris Pratt
Genre: Comedy | Romance
Memorable Movie Quote: "Stop thinking. OK. We're just doing."
Distributor: Relativity Media
Official Site: www.iamrogue.com/takemehometonight
Tagline: Best. Night. Ever
Release Date: March 4, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date: July 19, 2011
Plot Synopsis: As the summer of 1988 winds down, three friends on the verge of adulthood attend an out-of-control party in celebration of their last night of unbridled youth. Starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler and Teresa Palmer, Take Me Home Tonight is a raunchy, romantic and ultimately touching blast from the past set to an awesome soundtrack of timeless rock and hip-hop hits. Recent MIT grad Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) should be working for a Fortune 500 company and starting his upward climb to full-fledged yuppie-hood. Instead, the directionless 23-year-old confounds family and friends by taking a part-time job behind the counter of Suncoast Video at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. But Matt’s silent protest against maturity comes to a screeching halt once his unrequited high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), walks into the store. When she invites him to an epic, end-of-summer party, Matt thinks he finally might have a chance with the girl of his dreams. With his cynical twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) and best friend Barry (Dan Fogler), Matt embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime evening. From stealing a car to a marriage proposal to an indescribable, no-holds-barred dance-off, these friends share experiences that will change the course of their lives on one unforgettable night in the Go-Go ’80s.
Available on Blu-ray - July 19, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (on disc)
Playback: Region A
Filmed mostly at night, Take Me Home Tonight’s 1080p transfer holds its black levels strong. The inky blacks are thick and never bleed through into the colors. Yet, there’s an orange tint to flesh colors in a lot of the interior party scenes that gets more noticeable as the movie wears on. Soaked in 1980’s nostalgia and a great soundtrack, the sound, presented in a bold Dolby Digital DTS surround track, is impressive and keeps the movie thumping along with it use of the field of sound.
We’re a little limp here, gang. We get a nice feature of the cast talking about their time making the movie. The featurette is full of deleted and gag reel moments, but it’s also very light. The deleted scenes are great as they flush out some of the missing moments in the narrative, but the rest – featuring a music video and music boom box feature – is just filler.
- Seven Deleted Scenes (10 min)
- Cast Get-Together (16 min)
- Music Boom Box
- “Video Killed the Radio Star” – The Buggles
- “Hungry Like the Wolf” – Duran Duran
- “Situation” – Yaz
- “Kickstart My Heart” – Mötley Crüe
- “Straight Outta Compton” – NWA
- “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes
- “Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
- “Come on Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
- “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” – Wang Chung
- “Let My Love Open the Door” – (E. Cola Mix) Pete Townshend
- “Live if Life” – Opus
- “Don’t You Want Me” – Human League / New Version by Atomic Tom
- Take Me Home Tonight Music Video (4 min)
- Theatrical Trailer
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