Take Me Home Tonight
Directed by Michael Dowse
The message in Take Me Home Tonight earns the movie a very mild recommendation.
Matt, Matt, Matt
Poor Matt Franklin (Topher Grace, In Good Company). He's a super-smart kid who graduated high school in 1984 with the tubular distinction of holding the attendance record every year. A total math whiz, he went to MIT and, well, look at him now! He's living at home with the parental units and working at Suncoast.
Matt doesn't know what he wants to do with his life.
Luckily for him, the local rich kid's holding his – last – Labor Day party and it'll be a great opportunity to impress his high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer, The Sorcerer's Apprentice). She was the prom queen and she went on to study at Duke before landing a well-paying job in the mundane world of finance and accounting.
Making things even worse for Matt's sorry situation, his twin sister, Wendy (Anna Faris, The House Bunny), is dating the rich frat boy brat, a guy he can't stand. She's setting aside her own collegiate hopes of attending Cambridge in favor of love and possibly marriage. And Matt's best friend, Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler, Balls of Fury), just got fired from his job as a car salesman.
It Happened One Night
Stomping on some of the same ground as last year's Hot Tub Time Machine, Take Me Home Tonight brings back the ‘80s and all the obvious hooks: the music, the hair, the clothes. But the heart of the story is essentially about living a life without regrets and by placing the story in the ‘80s instead of contemporary times, there's a slightly ghostly effect of looking back on life, wasted opportunities, and decisions that might've been made differently given different means.
Well, that's part of the movie, anyway.
Take Me Home Tonight also wants to be a raunchy sex comedy and that's where the movie dumps its upstanding convictions in favor of base conventions.
Before the evening falls apart for Matt and Barry (and the movie), the first act works well, establishing all the characters and setting the stage for a big payoff, which was a cinematic device common in '80s flicks. In this case, there's mention of somebody possibly, finally "riding the ball" during the party.
The oddly innocent appeal achieved during the first half, innocent enough to question the "R" rating, gives way to a much more vulgar second half. Things begin to go downhill at a rapid clip once a super-hot older woman (Angie Everhart, Payback) takes Barry to the bathroom for a romp of sex, drugs, and voyeurism during the big Labor Day bash.
Barry's Belushi-like antics of mayhem and debauchery include stealing a car off the lot of his former employer, discovering a stash of cocaine in the glove box, and going on a bender that might impress Charlie Sheen (the new millennium variety, not the '80s Charlie Sheen who showed so much potential).
Eye of the Tiger
Barry and Matt: ready to partay
Tori, the apple of Matt's eye
The typical party havoc and sexcapades fulfill the movie's self-conscious need to be raunchy, but the real impact comes from Matt's story and his relationship with his police officer father, Bill (Michael Biehn, The Terminator).
Dad's understandably bent out of shape because a huge chunk of his income went down the drain in order to pay Matt's way through college and he's not the least bit happy about him working at Suncoast instead of pursuing a more meaningful career.
He's a tough dad, but his message is certainly valid. "You haven't failed because you haven't tried to succeed," he tells Matt. And with that he won't even give his son the credit of being a failure; he desperately wants to see his son simply take a shot at something and see what happens.
Matt's pursuit of Tori is also fairly effective; it's one that manages to call out the double standard of attractions between the sexes. He lies to her about his employment, embarrassed by his retail position. At the same time, she confesses she wouldn't have gone out with him had he asked her out during high school. It was indeed his employment at Goldman Sachs – not Suncoast – that got her attention and broke the ice.
Turns out they both hate their jobs and both of them fear succumbing to the same fate of so many others: children, mortgages, dull jobs. Yikes! Life's a trap!
By the time morning rolls around and the party comes to a close, the movie manages to bring the characters to their own personal epiphanies and that's where the value of the movie lies. In the end, there's a second payoff, one that harks back to a chance encounter at the beginning of the movie and one that indicates the truly happy person is the one out there actively pursuing and doing his (or her) own thing.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.