21 October 2011

Movie Review: Take Me Home Tonight


C

Take Me Home Tonight
2011, 97mins, 15
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer (s): Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo
Cast includes: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Teresa Palmer, Dan Fogler
UK Release Date: 13th May 2011

“Take Me Home Tonight” was shot in 2007, but ominously only found distribution earlier this year. The film is a celebration of the eighties, aiming to slot efficiently into the coming of age and “one crazy night” genres that have become essentials of teen cinema. Whilst rarely crass or offensively broad, “Take Me Home Tonight” is regrettably low on solid laughs, an issue that can obviously be traced back to its lukewarm screenplay. The performances are fine and the direction by Michael Dowse is energetic, but the writing never clicks, the characterization and gags presented falling short of the mark on most occasions.

A struggling MIT graduate stuck in a rut, Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is left stunned when his High School crush Tori (Teresa Palmer, attractive but dull) meanders into the video store he works at. Ashamed of his post-college career trajectory, Matt tells Tori he works at Goldman Sachs, using the lie to construct a second meeting at a party occurring later the same night. Teaming up with his depressed and recently fired buddy Barry (Dan Fogler, in better form than usual), Matt heads to the fiesta with the aim of winning his dream girl, but what he gets is an evening of substance abuse, wacky antics and illuminating self-discovery.

“Take Me Home Tonight” is set in 1988, the filmmakers capturing the era impressively. Everything from the VHS stacked shop fronts to the questionable fashion trends afford the movie a sense of authenticity, lending the picture at the very least some genuine nostalgic value. Unfortunately the lack of notable laughs and the pedestrian plotline scupper the joy almost fully, undercutting the talented cast and the best efforts of Dowse. The script doesn’t have any zing or momentum; it’s a drab piece of writing, too preoccupied with tepid banter and stock characters to engage.

Topher Grace is likable but his role is bland, none of the conflicts he has to endure are particularly worthwhile. It all just feels like a case of nerd chasing hot chick, hardly the most innovative staple on which to hang a movie of this nature. Dan Fogler is entertaining as Barry, using his physicality to try and stimulate the material, His success rate is patchy, but given lacklustre calibre of the humour, the fact he makes it work at all is commendable. The adorable and extremely capable Anna Faris also feels wasted, relegated to the fringes as Matt’s conflicted sibling. Her arc is much more three dimensional than Topher Grace’s (Faris struggles with choice between education and marriage), but the story overlooks her in favour of the more generic central romance. It’s pretty indicative of the poor writing on display here.

“Take Me Home Tonight” isn’t misogynistic or soulless, which in the current mainstream comedy climate counts for something. It boasts a cool retro aesthetic and is despite the vast amount of cocaine usage, quite an innocent and well intentioned endeavour at heart. The problem is that it’s uninventive and almost never funny, which given its apparent placement as a comedy is a tough fault to forgive.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011

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