A trio of high school friends has one life-changing night in Take Me Home Tonight, a more-or-less straight-faced retro-revival of the ’80s coming-of-age comedy.
Which, apparently, we needed?
Twins Matt (Topher Grace) and Wendy (Anna Faris, in the Joan Cusack role) Franklin have just graduated college and are now, somewhere in the late Reagan era, contemplating the rest of their lives. Matt went to MIT but is now working at the Suncoast Video in the mall because he’s not sure where to go next. Wendy is dating bone-headed jock Kyle Masterson (Chris Pratt) but isn’t quite sure that she’s onboard with where their life is headed. And then there’s Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler), requisite outrageous chubby guy in all of these comedies. He didn’t go to college but worked instead at a Mercedes dealership which, as our evening begins, has just fired him.
Because Matt ran into Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer — who, to switch back to contemporary references — looks like a poor man’s Kristen Stewart), his high school crush, and she told him she would be at Kyle Masterson’s big end-of-summer party, Matt decides that what they all need is to go to the party. And because he couldn’t admit he worked at Suncoast, Matt is going to have to spend the party pretending he works in finance for Goldman Sachs. To further that end and to stick it one last time to his bosses, Nathan steals, Ferris Bueller-style, a cherry red convertible. And, hey, what’s that white powder in the glove compartment?
Name a 1980s cliché and it’s in here — cocaine and the liberal and acceptable use of, big hair, pushed up jacked sleeves, flipped up Polo shirt collars, unfortunate vests, sushi, balloon pants. And, of course, the music. Every “Video Killed the Radio Star”-type iconic 1980s song is in here, including “Straight Outta Compton,” which is a welcome bit of recognition that there was more than just one flavor of pop during that decade. The music is — and I think the nostalgia implied in this sentiment is actually graying my hair as I write this — the best part of the movie. To watch and listen as these songs are used the way they would have been two decades ago is fun and even kind of sweet, like drinking your favorite CapriSun. I also enjoyed the sort of unironic use of Trapper Keeper font in the movie’s opening credits and the fact that, even though I’m not an ’80s movie fanatic, I could match sections of this plot to movies from the time, match the characters to the actors who would have played them then.
What I didn’t quite get was why this movie exists at all. Memory lane is nice and all but I can get that by watching an actual ’80s movie. Here, we get a forgotten 1980s movie, one frozen in amber, chipped out and presented in all its lip-glossy shine. It isn’t a parody or a satire or a movie that uses the form of then to comment on now. It’s just an ’80s movie, and a middling one at that.
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use. Directed by Michael Dowse and written by Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Topher Grace and Gordon Kaywin, Take Me Home Tonight is an hour and 54 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Relativity Media.