Fox // 2011 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 27th, 2011
Best. Night. Ever.
Originally shot in 2007, the '80s-themed comedy Take Me Home Tonight sat on the shelf for four years before being dumped into theaters in March of 2011 with little fanfare and even less box office.
Now, the movie arrives on DVD to finally answer the question: Was it worth the wait?
It's 1988, and Matt Franklin (Topher Grace, In Good Company) is using his recently-earned diploma from MIT to work at Suncoast Video. When his high school crush Tori Fredreking (Teresa Palmer, The Sorcerer's Apprentice) wanders into the store one day, Matt lies about having a job at Goldman Sachs to impress her. She invites him to an annual party thrown by Kyle Masterson (Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation) -- who just happens to be dating Matt's twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris, Observe and Report). Added into this mix is Matt's best friend Barry (Dan Fogler, Good Luck Chuck), who's just lost his job at the car dealership and is looking to forget his problems in the bottom of a bottle. It all culminates in one night and one giant party that's either going to be totally radical or a total bummer. To the max. Or something. Reagan!
I'll admit that I'm a sucker for the "one night, one party" movie, which should make the finally-released Take Me Home Tonight right up my alley. It's a pleasant enough movie that aspires to very little and achieves it, I suppose. That may be the highest praise I can award the movie, because besides being pleasant (enough), it's completely formulaic, gimmicky, hollow and, ultimately, forgettable. Even among the "one night, one party" genre -- which isn't terribly deep or wide -- it fails to stand out.
Star Topher Grace shares "story by" credit on the movie, which means he's seen Can't Hardly Wait. Also, every movie ever made. Truth be told, there isn't a whole lot of "story" in Take Me Home Tonight. Grace still harbors a crush on a girl from high school, and lies about his job to impress her (because every romantic comedy is built on deception). Faris is dating a shallow douche who doesn't truly know or support her, because every romantic comedy features a character dating the wrong person. Fogler has nothing left to lose and decides to throw caution to the wind and get as wasted as humanly possible. That's not really a conceit that shows up in romantic comedies, I guess, so the theory falls apart. I blame Dan Fogler, who isn't just unfunny and lacking in charisma but is actually aggressively unlikable. He's been obnoxious and grating in every movie he's been in, and I can't figure out why he continues to be cast in movies. To be fair, this was made several years ago; he doesn't get cast in much anymore, I don't think. That's for the best.
The decision to set the movie in the '80s is perhaps its most baffling choice, and smacks of a marketing tool more than anything else -- someone associated with the film saw The Wedding Singer and decided "yeah, let's just do that." There is no point in Take Me Home Tonight where the decade plays any real part in either the story or the themes; the '80s setting amounts to nothing more than a lot of "look at the big hair," "look at the funny clothes," "listen tot his familiar song" sequences. It makes for cheap laughs, and even cheaper nostalgia. It's all unnecessary window dressing, too, since the characters and performances are enough to carry the movie -- not a normal movie, mind you, but at least a "one night, one party" movie.
Stranger still is that if it is, indeed, a marketing hook, the '80s angle of the movie did it no favors, as it sat on a shelf for four years before receiving any kind of theatrical release. Supposedly, the studio was uncomfortable with the amount of cocaine use in the movie, and apparently four years is the statute of limitations on how long it takes to get comfortable with cocaine use. Truth be told, there's not a whole lot of the white stuff snorted in Take Me Home Tonight, and I suspect the delayed release was just the result of a studio having no idea what to do with the movie. In a strange twist of fate, I would argue that the movie's existence makes more sense in 2011 than 2007; sure, Topher Grace isn't as big a name as he was four years ago, but several of the cast members have become even more famous and recognizable: Anna Faris is a bigger star, Chris Pratt has popped off Parks and Recreation, Teresa Palmer has a couple of mainstream roles to her credit (even if they were in I Am Number Four and The Sorcerer's Apprentice), Lucy Punch (who has a small role) is more of a household name, and so on. Even the cameo from comedian Demetri Martin carries more weight now -- you can tell, too, because Fox built a lot of the marketing around his scene. None of this matters, though, because the movie didn't make so much as a dent at the box office. So it goes.
Oh, and the Eddie Money song on which the title is based? Never played in the movie. They couldn't even get that part right.
The movie arrives on DVD courtesy of Fox, and it's appropriately polished for a new release. The 2.40:1 anamorphic image is bright and colorful and without any detectable flaws. The 5.1 surround audio track delivers dialogue clearly amidst an almost-constant sea of party noise, which is also well-represented in the rear channels. The nonstop barrage of familiar '80s songs is a standout, too, playing loudly and proudly throughout but never overpowering the rest of the track. There aren't too many bonus features included -- not surprising for a movie that sat for four years and got dumped. A handful of deleted scenes offer a few extra character bits, while a short "roundtable" discussion between Grace, Faris, Fogler, Pratt and Palmer offers a glimpse into how much fun it was to make the movie (and makes me wish that the same group had sat down to record a commentary track, which would have been interesting -- particularly four years down the road, when they all had a different perspective on the movie and their own careers since making it). A "music jukebox" feature, which plays a few of the '80s songs featured in the movie, is included, as is a video for Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight." That's it.
Take Me Home Tonight is the kind of movie that's meant to be found on cable at midnight, when your standards are lower and you just want something with a little comedy, a little romance, a lot of music, and not much depth. It's not worth buying on DVD, but it might be worth staying up until 2 a.m. Assuming you don't have to get up early tomorrow.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Boom Box
* Music Video
* Official Site