"Take Me Home Tonight" - 2011
Dir. by Michael Dowse - 1 hr. 37 min.
There are a limited amount of kinds of stories that tend to get told, especially when you're dealing with a comedy filled with sub-30 year olds. I had mentioned the "save the house" film when writing about "The Slammin' Salmon." "Take Me Home Tonight" is in a related, but separate category - the "carpe diem" movie. That's Latin for "seize the day." Where a "save the house" movie is about rallying to preserve something larger than the individual as a route to self-actualization, a "carpe diem" movie is about personal redemption, often about overqualified people mired in indecision, and spurred to more fully fulfill their potential.
If that sounds like over-thinking things, you should know that comedy is serious business.
The quick overview here is that Matt Franklin, played by Topher Grace, is a MIT graduate who works at Suncoast Video while trying to avoid figuring out what he's going to do with his life. The reappearance of his high school crush, Tori Frederking (played by Teresa Palmer) reinforces the fact that he has no balls (figuratively), but another opportunity to find love with Tori has presented itself. He reintroduces himself with a lie, and we all can guess how that ends up. Matt's storyline twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) faces a related issue - that of settling into a life that's perhaps easier than she should accept. And for a healthy dose of chaos, Matt's best friend Barry (Dan Fogler), gets fired from his job as a car salesman. In the vein of "SubUrbia" or "Superbad," the story plays out over one day.
Generally speaking, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Going in, the only thing I could think of was that it was likely going to be just more comedy product. And I'm not suggesting that may not be the case, but it's well-executed, likable comedy product. That goes a long way with me. Matt is kept from sinking entirely into solipsism and self-pity by his best friend, who reacts to being fired with a self-destructive gusto I wish I could muster. He sees peers dipping their toes into waters that his parents are trying to force him into, and doesn't like the results. Also, Grace and Palmer do have some chemistry, which makes the admittedly large romance-driven part of the story go down easy. And for contrast, pretty much everything that happens to Barry is just a bit further than he's willing to go. There's a scene at a high-class party that ends up with Barry engaging in a cocaine-fueled tryst with an older woman (Angie Everhart) and her leather-clad older male friend that leaves Barry fleeing, yelling, "You've lost your way!"
The other thing that I really appreciated about this movie is that the fact that it's set in the 80's wasn't the main source of material for the humor. In fact, that it was set in the 80's is so unimportant to the film that I'm curious as to why it was set then. Sure, Grace's character sells VHS tapes, and there's an early scene in a mall record store that is filled with cassettes and vinyl, but they're just treated like a video store and a record store. People dressed as they would have, but there weren't any anachronistic winks about how silly things looked compared to now. Even the soundtrack kind of soft-pedaled the era - it was all period-specific, but it was more like a well-constructed mix tape than the soundtracks to "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion" or "The Wedding Singer."
For a "carpe diem" movie, this was a decent one. It's not transcendent like "The Graduate," but few movies are. It's a pleasant, funny movie, and that's about what it aspires to be. Goal accomplished.
3 / 5 - Theatre