Starring: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Chris Pratt, Michael Biehn, Jenie Hackett, Lucy Punch, Michelle Trachtenberg
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer(s): Topher Grace, Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo
Cinematography: Terry Stacey
Original Score: Trevor Horn
Running Time: 97 Mins.
Right let’s get the obvious out of the way, firstly I am indeed a sucker for 80’s set films, particularly given the rather good clutch that have seen the light of day in the last few years with Adventureland being the standout, secondly I also have a soft spot for coming of age comedies that have a very clear message (usually about “finding yourself”), a message which is set as an undercurrent for great performances, it is this combination that made Adventureland a winner in my book so how pleased I was to see a possibility for something cut from very similar cloth in Take Me Home Tonight, even if it does star the usually underwhelming Topher Grace.
Thankfully I can safely say Grace is a casting coup, given he also co-write I’ve no doubt it was a role that may have drawn on personal experience but was definitely written with the actor in mind. Given the story sees his character, Matt Franklin, as man who is wasting his potential working in a video store and is capable of so much more the parallels speak for themselves, Grace was great in That 70’s Show but has wasted his fine comic ability and genuinely likeable personality in totally miscast roles such as stinkers like Predators and Spiderman 3 it is great to see him back on comfortable ground and back at his most likeable since In Good Company, a similarly great coming of age tale.
While Take Me Home Tonight has at it’s centre a character/actor who is as likeable as Jesse Eisenberg was in Adventureland the film itself doesn’t quite have that films level of pathos, though the laughs are much broader tipping it closer in tone to last years Hot Tub Time Machine, where HTTM failed was in the overt 80’s parody that veered from spoof to cringeworthy on a frequent basis. No such problem here, as the setting is largely unimportant other than for the pathos it adds for 80’s kids like myself, of those that are fans of that oh so tacky of times, the iconic traits are all present and correct but not hammered home of used for cheap seen-it-all-before gags, witness the opening credits that show us everything 80’s from Alf the Alien to Reagan and the dancing Sultana’s, references that will raise a big grin for those who recognise them safe in the nowledge that the youth of today will be oblivious to such charms.
Surface enjoyment aside it is in the story that the film really wins plaudits, set over one night (naturally), twins Matt and Wendy (Faris, not gurning for a change) with tubby best friend Barry set out for a party with the guys having the sole intention of pulling, so far so American Pie/Road Trip etc., but there is a sweetness and heart that raises Take Me Home Tonight above mere entertainment, harking back to 80’s classics such as Fast Times At Ridgement High and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the belly laughs are balanced with sweet, but not sickly, moments. Helping in this is Teresa Palmer as the figure of Matt’s longtime crush, a presence with the looks to match her personality she brings the same level of likeability here as she did in The Sorcerers Apprentice.
Add to these elements, which slot together perfectly, is a very funny turn by Dan Fogler, yes he takes blow, yes he gets drunk, yes he has a dance-off and yes he is there for Matt when he needs him, but as expected and predictable as his characters actions are it is all done so well that it feels nothing but fresh, indeed a mantra that can be applied to the entire endeavour.
Take Me Home Tonight sets its stool somewhere between Adventureland and Hot Tub Time Machine (the better bits), though it falls between the two in terms of overall quality I can’t critisize such a winning, funny and memorable film that surely warrants many a repeat viewing if only for us 80’s nostalgia nuts.