Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Take Me Home Tonight" is '80s fun...if only it was released 4 years before

Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
97 min., rated R.
Grade: B

If John Cusack and Molly Ringwald were thirty years younger again, they would have made "Take Me Home Tonight," a true '80s lover's dream come true. Fans of those all-night-party teen flicks that defined their generation, from 1973's "American Graffiti," 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," 1989's "Say Anything," and 1993's "Dazed and Confused," will party like it's 1988 in their acid-washed jeans with director Michael Dowse's affable homage that unironically delights in the clich├ęs. Instead of virginal dorks, the movie focuses on college graduates in 1988, San Fernando Valley during one big, raucous night. 

Topher Grace, who conceived this story, showcases his boyishly cute Everyman likability as Matt Franklin, an MIT graduate who's working at Suncoast Video in the mall. His parents (Michael Biehn, Jeanie Hackett) see so much potential in him, saying "you could be an astronaut," but Matt just feels like an aimless failure. So on the night of The Big Party for Labor Day weekend, where it's like high school all over again, he puts up a charade telling people he works at Goldman Sachs, especially to snag his crush, former prom queen turned banker Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer, a smiley, blonde double for Kristen Stewart). And he and his wacky slob of a best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) steal a Mercedes and come into the possession of some blow. Eventually, Matt's lies will catch up with him. Meanwhile, Matt's twin sister, Wendy (Anna Faris), is contemplating marriage with her dumb tool of a boyfriend, Kyle (Chris Pratt, Faris' real-life hubby), or going to grad school in Cambridge. 

"Take Me Home Tonight" is a love note to the 1980s, getting the look and feel of the John Hughesian decade completely right. Hughes fans will recognize "Shermer High School" as the fictional high school in "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." The fashion is amusing, from the scrunchies to the Madonna lace gloves, and the soundtrack rocks, making good use of Dexy's Midnight Runners' “Come On Eileen," Duran Duran's “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes." Palmer is radiant and energetic, and she and Grace make an appealing couple. Faris is underused but still amiable in the straight-man role. Fogler spends most of the movie out of control or coked out. Lucy Punch has fun as Matt's obnoxious stalker, Michelle Trachtenberg slinks around as a goth chick, and Demetri Martin is hilariously self-deprecating as a wheelchair-bound old classmate. 

It's inconceivable why this film was shot in 2007 and now just seeing the light of day, four years later, and it's from the sex-cocaine antics that are mostly unnecessary anyway. The only surprise you'll find here is that Eddie Money's “Take Me Home Tonight” song is nowhere to be found, but "Take Me Home Night" still makes a fun, sweet time capsule for nostalgics. 

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