TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (2011)
Running Time: 97 mins. Rating: 4 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Michael Dowse
Distributor: Relativity Media
Cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Chris Pratt, Michael Biehn, Jeanie Hackett, Lucy Punch, Michelle Trachtenberg, Demetri Martin, Michael Ian Black, Bob Odenkirk, Angie Everhart
The filmmakers behind TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT are surprisingly up front in their press production notes. Rather than making any pretense of originality, they fully admit that they are paying homage to the coming of age movie where “one crazy night” has a drastic effect on all of the characters’ lives. Think of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, RISKY BUSINESS, PORKY’S, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, and from the low budget world, I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER, THE HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS and THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES among many others. I applaud the creative forces behind TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT not just for their candor but also for their brilliant execution.
It’s Labor Day weekend 1988 in Los Angeles, and Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) a recent MIT who returned home after graduation in May, and has no idea of what he wants to do with his life. Although he is a math wiz and has a degree in engineering, he has no desire to work in that field. Instead of driving his dad crazy by swimming in his backyard pool a la Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock in THE GRADUATE, he does it by working as a clerk in a mall store, Suncoast Video.
Matt gets a quick jolt of ambition when he sees his old high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), browsing through the racks of film choices. Matt quickly rips off his clerk’s smock, rushes out a store emergency exit, and then nonchalantly walks back into the store as if he were a customer and strategically stands near her. Tori remembers him somewhat from high school and seems happy to see him. She tells him that she just graduated from Duke and is working at the investment banking firm of Drexel Burnham. When she asks him where he is working, Matt doesn’t miss a beat. “Goldman Sachs,” he says confidently. She proceeds to invite him to a party at a friend’s house.
While his resume fib hangs over the film, and you know that it is going to come back to haunt him, the question of “Will Matt be able to win the heart of his unobtainable crush?” is happily not the plot centerpiece. When Tori make it clear that she really likes Matt, she asks him why he never asked her out in high school. “I could tell you that I was waiting for the right moment, my ‘in’ so to speak, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I thought that you’d reject me and it would have been devastating,” Matt says in a way that represents a lot of us. Tori surprisingly concedes that she probably would not have gone out with him. “I wasn’t the same person in high school that I am now,” she says in a clear acknowledgment of the high school caste that has existed since time in memoriam.
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT succeeds for a variety of reasons. Topher Grace, best known for being one of the stars of the old Fox Television comedy series, “The ‘70s Show,” gives his character a low-key dignity. He and newcomer Australian actress, Teresa Palmer, have a great chemistry. It would have been easy for the screenwriters to have Matt be a tongue-tied klutz around Tori but happily they eschewed that tired cliché.
The supporting cast of TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT is spectacular. Dan Fogler, who was the only decent thing about the 2007 Dane Cook-Jessica Alba debacle, GOOD LUCK CHUCK, is hysterical in the Curtis Armstrong-type best buddy instigator role. Anna Faris, barely recognizable as a brunette, is cast against type as a sarcastic intellectual whose dream is to get a Ph.D in literature at Cambridge. Also shining is New York comedian Michael Ian Black who plays a Michael Milken wannabe Drexel Burnham deal-maker who throws hedonistic parties at his modern Bel Air mansion where even schlubs can bed beautiful women if they have the currency of choice for them, cocaine.
The soundtrack is a true ‘80s smorgasbord as it features Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf,” the Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” and NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton.” My biggest gripe with this flick is that if you are going to call it TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT then you’d better have that Eddie Money classic somewhere in the soundtrack. It is nowhere to be found.
If you like this recommendations: Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Can’t Hardly Wait, Risky Business