Take Me Home Tonight
After a funny scene in a record shop, the opening credits roll. These flashy but pleasing credits deal out a sort of best of the '80s montage making it obvious, if you didn’t already get it from the Eddie Money-inspired title, "Take Me Home Tonight" is a throwback movie. The movie centers around a character who works at a video rental store. With Netflix, traditional movie renting has become a thing of the past. It feels strangely nostalgic to see a store with VHS tapes lining the walls, and nostalgia is clearly one of the main goals here. For the most part the movie succeeds in what it attempts, and at its best moments it is really funny.
Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is a recent college graduate afraid to make a career commitment, or any commitment for that matter, so he lives with his parents and works at Suncoast Video. When his high school crush, Tori Fredreking (Teresa Palmer), comes into Suncoast, he drops his uniform and pretends he works at Goldman Sachs to impress her. This all leads to a huge party that Matt wouldn’t normally attend, but it is his big chance to finally go for Tori. Egged on by his freshly laid off car dealer buddy Barry (Dan Fogler), and his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris), the three set out to make this a night to remember.
The movie feels like an 80s comedy, the characters act and dress the part, the plot is fairly typical, and the music is a constant reminder to the time period we’re in. Grace is no stranger to playing an era-related role. Give him a new haircut, and he has jumped from the 70s to the 80s. From Foreman to Matt Franklin. Grace does a good job of keeping the viewer engaged with the movie. He delivers the laughs well enough, especially in the film’s many awkwardly comedic moments, and he is convincing in those moments when the movie, inevitably, gets a little serious.
However, the real star of this movie is the supporting actor, Fogler. Though not given as much range as Grace’s character, Fogler shines as a sort of Curtis Armstrong-type buddy character (think Better Off Dead). Fogler is responsible for most of the movie’s big laughs, from a cocaine-fueled dance off to an awkwardly funny sexual encounter with an older woman and her friend who just likes to watch. If it was the 80s, Fogler’s career would probably see a steady rise after this role, and maybe it will anyway. But not too many movies like this come out anymore, and for good reason, it’s 2011.
The comedic talents of Faris seem somewhat wasted. Not to knock her, but Faris is at her best when she plays slightly dumb, silly characters (Scary Movie, The Hot Chick). Yet, here she plays quite a different role. Though believable as a college graduate with aspirations to be a writer, for the most part, Faris doesn’t get the opportunity to deliver any big laughs, instead she provides smaller scale filler. The outrageous gags are handed off to Fogler and sometimes Grace as well. It would have been nice if Faris had been given at least one scene of this type, she could have easily handled it.
As a huge fan of 80s comedies, I appreciate the stab at making a movie that could comfortably sit somewhere between The Breakfast Club and Weekend at Bernie’s II on the shelf of a video store. But do we really need another 80s comedy? Nostalgia movies are nothing new, and the 80s have been tapped before. The Wedding Singer used music to show an era that, at the time, seemed to have disappeared almost completely. And more recently, Hot Tub Time Machine used the 80s to allow a group of characters to relive their youth.
Take Me Home Tonight’s premise is not as clever. It uses the 80s to make a movie that feels like it came out in the 80s, its aims are purely nostalgic. Though the laughs largely outweigh the non-laughs, the movie doesn’t compare to the best work of 80s big shots like Zucker Abrahams Zucker, John Hughes, or Harold Ramis. For those already familiar with the 80s classics, Take Me Home Tonight is a fine addition for someone wanting a new movie that feels like it’s from that other time. But for everyone else, watching something like Better Off Dead would probably be a better use of your time.