Topher Grace, Teresa Palmer
Take Me Home Tonight desperately wants to have been directed by John Hughes. In the 80s. Starring John Cusack. Instead we’re stuck with little known director Michael Dowse, a much delayed 2011 release date and the distinctly not-Cusack Topher Grace.
When the film went before cameras back in 2007, Grace was hot property – relatively fresh from the success of The 70’s Show and recently cast as Venom in Spider-Man 3. That film proved to be a disaster and his career has hardly had a flutter since (Predators notwithstanding). So, before we even get to the period setting, Take Me Home Tonight already feels like a time capsule – aided by Grace and co-star Anna Faris’ improbably fresh faced looks.
The plot is all about hyper smart loser Matt Franklin (Grace) who graduated from MIT and then went to work in a video store back home, putting his life on hold. Even the set up is flawed, coming into his life after the formative years of college, long after he made the decision to leave his humdrum town. But he’s back, and – because the plot demands it – he’s pining for a girl he a crush on in high school Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer) who – because the plot demands it – walks into his video store quite randomly. They chat, it’s cute and he lies about working as an investment banker for the chance to finally hook up with her.
That’s the entirety of the story, which wends its way slowly towards a finale through a couple of house parties and some mild property damage. Matt chases Tori, they bond and things seem great but it’s all based on a deception. While predictable, the plot is far from terrible and some moments of drama ring pretty true and the proactive message is better than most youth focussed dramas.
It’s the comedy that doesn’t work, especially in light of the smart and genuinely hilarious movies it wants to recall. There’s no charm to the characters and a focus on foul language and sex jokes which jars with the period feel of the film. Dan Fogler is mainly to blame in a thankless role as recently fired Barry, who runs around being generally obnoxious and inebriated.
Take Me Home Tonight works best when it focuses on the central romance, with well meaning performances from Grace and Aussie Palmer – who has since moved on to bigger and better things. The script is occasionally sharp and it all comes to a genial enough end (complete with random set piece) but the 80s setting feels utterly redundant.