Thursday, March 10, 2011

'Take Me Home Tonight' Review

Take Me Home Tonight
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

As the 1980s continue to shrink in our cultural rearview, movie studios continue to greenlight decadent, souped-up homage vehicles in an attempt to cash in on the new retro. Some of these films rely too heavily on the nylon-and-neon kitsch of their setting, while others push past exteriors and actually capture a nostalgic spirit. “Take Me Home Tonight,” a 1988-set comedy about a landmark evening in the lives of a handful of L.A. 20-somethings, does both.

Written by the vintage-happy duo of Jeff and Jackie Filgo (“That '70s Show”), the movie spends much of its first half packing in the era-appropriate details, from popped collars to moussed-up hair to “Come On Eileen” to the all-but-defunct Suncoast video store chain. It's a flashy buffet designed to distract from the humdrum story's lack of ambition: Swimming in quarter-life confusion, underachieving college grad Matt (Topher Grace) heads to an all-night bash with his judgmental sister (Anna Faris) and oafish friend (Dan Fogler), feigning success in order to woo his high school crush (Teresa Palmer). What else is new?

Grace and Palmer take in the period detail.
About midway through, however, “Take Me Home” begins to transcend its throwback doodads and throwaway plot by adopting the comfy, sex-tinged, underdog essence of upbeat '80s cinema. Matt's banal hunt for romance and identity becomes a nice geek's “Can't Buy Me Love” quest for The One. Matt's friend's fat-guy schtick becomes less Jonah-Hill clichéd and more John-Belushi crazy. The dumb-jock villain becomes a sleazy amalgam of James Spader and Thomas “Biff” Wilson, and the party scene becomes a blend of “Sixteen Candles” house-trashing and “Porky's” experimentation. (Even Angie Everhart pops in for a cameo.)

“Take Me Home” will come and go as quickly as acid-washed jeans, but for a brief period it serves as an endearing, efficient little time machine. Once it reaches a climax where Matt rouses the party crowd with a speech before risking death to impress his dream girl, you'll swear you were watching this movie on VHS – a VHS you bought at Suncoast.
***

A version of this review was previously published at SouthPhillyReview.com. To read it there, CLICK HERE.

1 comment:

Cara said...

Awesome! I had low expectations based on what I saw from the previews of this movie, but I am a sucker for Topher Grace and obviously the 80s :)