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Monday, March 14, 2011
Take Me Home Tonight
Champagne Misgivings And 80s Toilet-Papered Dreams
The morning after: Topher Grace as Matt and Dan Fogler as Barry in Michael Dowse's 1980s comedy "Take Me Home Tonight" . Rogue
by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com FOLLOW
Monday, March 14, 2011
There's no A-ha or David Bowie or Rockwell on the soundtrack, but "Take Me Home Tonight" is effortless at recreating the 1980s without the nudge-nudge wink-wink of the era. Messy, silly and occasionally uproarious, Michael Dowse's comedy is a blend of foolish, hapless characters who try to find their bearings after graduating from college.
Based on a story written by the film's star Topher Grace and Jeff and Jackie Filgo, "Take Me Home" focuses more or less on one wild night of partying in Los Angeles in the late summer of 1988. Matt (Mr. Grace) is fresh out of M.I.T. An underachiever, he takes a job at Suncoast video, more as an act of rebellion, or out of fear that he doesn't want to let his innocence fly too quickly out of the back door. The perfect enabler for Matt's inner child is Barry (Dan Fogler), a best friend who's just been canned from his car salesman job.
While a chance meeting with Matt's high school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) stops the juvenile traffic in Matt's heart and forces him to re-evaluate where he is, Barry knows no limits. As played by Mr. Fogler, Barry is one of the kindred spirits that the late John Belushi's "Animal House" character would have welcomed with open arms. Mr. Fogler is the singular reason to see this farcical, frantic folly.
On the other hand, half of the film, especially the Tori character, is woefully underwritten. Tori has a good heart, but is made to look as if all she cares about is the status Matt has, or that she'd entertain sleeping with him if he drove a great car. Are there a few women in the world who only intermingle with high rollers? Of course, but the way her character is drawn, you'd think she was a plastic, gold-digging weathervane, or something of that bizarre sort.
Anna Faris plays Wendy, Matt's twin sister, who is trying to make her own dreams come true with a scholarship to Oxford. She has a sappy mug of a boyfriend who appears well-meaning but harbors his own feelings of inadequacy that may interfere with her future. Barry meets older women who have grown up and seen the other side of life and probably realize that their own dreams have long been quashed.
The best aspect of "Take Me Home Tonight" is its art direction. Those VHS cassette boxes, neatly shelved bring back a collage of memories -- of being in a world where every Tuesday you would hunger to gobble up the newest of new releases, no matter what they were. That resplendence is precisely the feeling that coursed through me as I watched Mr. Dowse's film. The fresh, colorful, unselfconscious era of exploration and possibility, smacked squarely with the reality that, as in life, some of those new releases weren't that good.
This kind of euphoria mixed with the come-down evokes a drug rush high -- not that I'd have specific knowledge -- but when you taste the sweetness sugar brings, you know you will have to pay for its after-effects sooner or later.
More than anything, this is the spirit "Take Me Home Tonight" evokes. If you enjoyed the 1980s for the memories of freshness, of that exciting, coming of age and all-out self-indulgence -- mixed with the harsh realities of the Reagan years that polluted your ideals and adolescent aspirations (the film gently hints at those moments) -- then you will likely smile at this film, which is, for all its flaws including its overpopulation of characters, a funny, mindless romp.
With: Chris Pratt, Michelle Trachtenberg, Lucy Punch, Michael Ian Black, Demetri Martin.
"Take Me Home Tonight" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for language, sexual content and drug use. The film's running time is one hour and 37 minutes.
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