March 7, 2011

Movie Review: Take Me Home Tonight

This is another example of a film that sat on the shelf for a studio that was unsure of what to do with it. One of the reasons for this movie's use of cocaine, it was deemed to be a bit too much for good taste it would seem. Take Me Home Tonight apparently sat on the shelf for four years waiting for someone to rescue it from oblivion and give it a shot at the big screen. It was Ron Howard and Brian Grazer who helped save the film with backing from Imagine Entertainment. It has now taken its bow on the big screen and I do not understand the reluctance in releasing it. Sure, there is some drug use and bad language in it, but still. I suspect the resurgence of R-rated comedy in recent years has helped as well.

The creative team behind the movie set out to make a film that was meant to look like it was from the 1980's and not one that parodied it. The result gets about halfway there. I would be lying if I said I didn't like the movie, but it is definitely not a great one or one that will be remembered for very long before fading in the dark pool of forgotten films. While it has a dose of that 1980's flair permeating it, the movie lacks the heart of what made movies like Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the characters. Those 80's films, mostly from John Hughes, had great heart and characters to identify with, the humor got them in the door but it was those genuine elements that kept them coming back.

Take Me Home Tonight has the 80's look and feel down to a T but that is about as far as it goes. The characters are not nearly as memorable, much less human. It is a movie that is like those classics by way of something more recent like Can't Hardly Wait. This is a movie comes across as genuine and earnest but the characters are either delivering punchlines or plot exposition. While I laughed at the antics I never really connected with the characters. Sure, it was easy to identify with them and the situations, but for a movie to truly work, or at least work the way I expect them to, it has to go beyond simple identification and step into its own reality where we can see these situations and believe them as a certain sort of reality rather than a facsimile.

The story centers on Matt Franklin (Topher Grace), a graduate of MIT trying to find his life's direction while working a Suncoast Video. One day his high school crush, Torrie (Teresa Palmer) stops into the store, he lies and says he works for Goldman Sachs. As it turns out, she is also a banker, but with a different firm. She invites him to a big party that night at the home of his nemesis, not to mention boyfriend to his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris). So, off he goes with his best friend, the recently laid off car salesman Barry (Dan Fogler).

The party fills the middle third of the film, involves car theft, cocaine use, a big ball made of scrap metal, lies, 80's music, 80's fashion, and a few other things. I don't know, I liked it, I enjoyed it while it was happening, but as it ended it felt a little shallow and anti-climatic. Actually, the more I think about it, the shallower it gets. It begs, borrows, and steals from better films and never develops an identity of its own.

This is fodder that has been mined many times before, and more successfully in movies like The Wedding Singer and Superbad. Here it has been warmed over leftovers masquerading as something fresh. It does have a certain energy to it, even if it isn't generated in any organic fashion. It filled a need when I saw it, but it has left me hungry in the long run.

Very Mild Recommendation.

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