Bottom line: D+
It’s difficult to watch Take Me Home Tonight and not see strands of other, funnier comedies woven into it. You have the 80s setting of Hot Tub Time Machine, the meek hero of any Michael Cera film and an attempt at emotional weight — miming Judd Apatow and tacked on sloppily to this film. Without a shred of originality or cleverness, it’s difficult to watch Take Me Home Tonight at all.
The story centers around Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) — wait for it — a misunderstood, lovable loser, who sets out with his annoying fucking friend played by professional not-Jack-Black, Dan Fogler, to win the heart of his high school crush. You see, Matt graduated from MIT, but doesn’t know what to do with his life. His twin sister, played by Anna Faris for some reason, is some type of writer who somehow got into Oxford. (And, by the look of her, I think she was recently stung by multiple bees on and around the face. I don’t know. They’ll probably explain it in a deleted scene or something.) This movie suffers from what I like to call “Exaggerated College Syndrome.” ECS movies place all of their characters in outlandishly prestigious universities in order to inflate our opinions of them and their intelligence, insulting every real college student and injecting false hope into high school juniors everywhere. ECS is responsible for sending Mean Girls’ Aaron to Northwestern and the cast of High School Musical to Yale, Stanford and Juilliard.
The late 80s setting seems to be the center piece of the marketing campaign, which features a poster decked out in retro neon, but it only amounts to the nagging sense that the writers said, “Hey. You know what is automatically funny? The 80s!” We get a montage of girls applying clouds of hairspray and inserting shoulder pads, but that’s usually as far as the joke goes. The only tangible ramification of the setting is that Matt works at Suncoast Video. There is no organic reason for the retro other than hackneyed irony. Take Me Home Tonight is 80s like a frat theme party is 80s.
The plot goes sour when Matt eventually meets up with his crush, Tori, played by Teresa Palmer, whose effectiveness seems out of place here. And because every comedy needs an element of deception to reveal near the end of act two, Matt tells Tori he works for Goldman Sachs. A lot of the story hinges on this seemingly minor fib. Aside from the plot obligations, their courtship is actually cute due to these two actors and the movie’s few actually funny lines. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t take enough breaks from juggling subplots, Faris’ in particular, and from telling old jokes to fully develop the relationship.
For every scene of Grace and Palmer acting relatively likable and charming, we get two of Dan fucking Fogler. He’s fat and prone to falling and getting caught in wacky situations. It’s a riot! His acting process is similar to the one that chose the 80s setting. “Do you know what would make this line funnier? If I fucking yelled it!” Again, this is not automatically funny.
I feel sorry for the few who go see this movie based on its cast list. It would seem like a smart thing to see a movie featuring Michael Ian Black, Demetri Martin and Bob Odenkirk, usually. Martin is the funniest part of the film but has little more than a cameo. Same goes for Black. Odenkirk doesn’t even have a line. Why would you cast Saul Goodman in a movie and not give him any lines? The man could probably make a Two and a Half Men script funny.
Take Me Home Tonight is a paint-by-numbers comedy, except the only color left is a kind of greenish brown. Despite the best efforts of Grace, Palmer and the supporting cast, the movie tries to do too much with too little originality. Faris and Fogler do enough to make the movie sufficiently unlikable. It’s scatterbrained, unfunny and only memorable if you’re obligated to write a review about it.