Wait, I am the first person to make a crack about how Topher Grace went from starring in That '70s Show to starring in That '80s Movie, right? Really? Everyone? Oh well. There goes my intro.
Not that there's any shortage of mediocre '80s-style sex comedies being churned out these days, but the difference with Take Me Home Tonight is that it actually does roll the clock back to the 1980s. Topher
Grace stars as Matt, an MIT grad who parlayed an engineering degree into a counter gig at Suncoast Video in the mall. It's supposed to be a summer thing just so Matt can figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, only...well, he's still trying to wrap his head around the math, I guess. While he's stewing in those juices, in walks Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer). The biggest regret of Matt's life is that he never worked up the nerve to ask out The Frederking in high school, so he makes up for lost time, and the two of 'em agree to meet up at a party. It's just that Matt didn't want to announce that he's a clerk at a video store, so he makes up a lie about being some bigshot banker...only Tori actually is a banker and wonders how she never heard of this Goldman Sachs office in L.A. Hmmm. Well, anyway, the rest of the movie swirls around what happens that one summer night. Two parties. One stolen car. One bag of cocaine. One dance-off against a b-boy. Two sex scenes. One set of MILFy boobs. One freshly-fired fat best friend-type (played by Dan Fogler). One Anna Faris before she finished melting her face with too much plastic surgery. One giant, metal ball. Just like Ronnie sang, it's a night they'll never forget! Or something.
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The whole point of the story in Take Me Home Tonight is figuring out who you want to be, so I guess it kind of fits that the movie itself has kind of an identity crisis. It really wants to be a comedy but hardly lands a single laugh. I mean, the first gag in the flick has Dan Fogler hitting on some middle-aged woman in a record store, and after trying to turn her on with a copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, he does a pratfall and knocks over rack after rack of audio cassettes, sending 'em tumbling over like dominos. Yeah, and that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the hypothetically-comedy to come. Dan Fogler is always the worst thing about every movie he's in...the type of actor who gets cast because the producers want a fat guy but can't afford Jack Black or Jonah Hill, and this is who they settle for. Fogler confuses volume and that sort of manic, Dane Cook-flavored flailing around for a sense of humor...it just feels if he's trying way too hard at something he just sucks at, and Take Me Home Tonight has that same sort of struggle. The comedy just feels so labored and forced, like when some white dude who's heard way too many Public Enemy albums punctuates everything he says with "boyeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and challenges a coke-addled Dan Fogler to a dance contest, doing the robot or whatever. Ugh. Setting it in the '80s seems to mostly be an excuse to point at
fluourescent Polo shirts, hairspray, and shoulder pads. (Kinda nice to watch a movie where no one's talking on a cell phone, though.) Take Me Home Tonight is better at milking uncomfortable laughs from awkward pauses and silences, and Demetri Martin is hysterical in a brief part as a wheelchair-bound hornball, but overall, it's a comedy that's just not funny.
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The strange thing is that Take Me Home Tonight is actually great when it's not trying so hard. There's a moment...I don't know, a third of the way through where Matt, after completely humiliating himself in front of his longtime crush, lays (almost) all of it out. Yes, he's liked her for years. Yes, he's embarrassed himself in pretty much every way imaginable. Yes, he understands if she never talks to him again. Matt confesses that he's acting this way because he likes her so much that he doesn't know what to do with himself. Charming, sincere...it's kind of awesome. When Take Me Home Tonight is relaxed like that, I really enjoyed it. The first act is dragged down by lousy comedy and all the setup, the second act has a tendency to sag, but by the end...I mean, Dan Fogler's aside, I genuinely came to like all of these characters and would have loved to have seen them in a better movie. Being a child of that decade and all, I'm all over the '80s soundtrack, although I don't think anyone in 1989 when the movie's set would've been listening to this much New Wave. The screenplay's also lazy and predictable...one of those movies where someone says "at least it can't get any worse" and then a police siren kicks in. Take Me Home Tonight is kind of like someone who saw Risky Business eighteen years ago and is trying to remake it completely from memory. Totally disposable. Sporadically okay-to-pretty good. Mostly not. Rent It.
On the technical end of things, this Blu-ray disc is top shelf, but the reason there aren't all that many stars in the sidebar is kind of unavoidable: the cinematography just skews somewhat soft. It's obvious from the clarity of the grain structure that this dates back to the original photography, but there just isn't an eye-popping level of detail to unearth here. Still outclasses anything DVD could ever hope to deliver, of course. Those neon '80s colors are kinda dazzling, although the palette is surprisingly muddy otherwise. As expected for a movie fresh out of theaters, there's no trace of wear or speckling, and no edge haloes, compression artifacting, or smearing from overzealous noise reduction creep in either. Take Me Home Tonight looks about as great in high-def as it realistically can, but the soft-ish photography holds it back from really impressing.
Take Me Home Tonight is presented in scope, and its AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc.
The 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is pretty much what you'd waltz in expecting for an '80s-flavored sex-comedy-drama-thingie. Dialogue is the focal point of the mix and is anchored front and center. Some lines get drowned out in the party sequences, but that's hardly a constant nuisance. Bass response is solid, owed mostly to the '80s mixtape soundtrack, along with scattered effects like pratfalls and a tumbling, gigantic metal ball. Crowd noise and music bleed into the surrounds, but the rear channels really aren't given much to do overall. Some high-speed skidding off the road is about as much of a showcase as the rears really get. Nothing that'll forever redefine the way you think of the sound of cinema or whatever, but it's perfectly serviceable for this sort of movie.
No dubs or downmixes this time around. The only other audio options are subtitle streams in English (SDH), Spanish, and French.
- Take Me Home Tonight Music Video (4 min.; HD): No, it's not a video for Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight", although that does awesomely blast
over the main menu. Actually, this is a video for a dancepunk cover of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me", with the cast of the movie doing a whole '80s nostalgia cosplay routine. Um, I kind of love it.
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- Deleted Scenes (11 min.; HD): The weird thing is that even though I wasn't all that hot on the movie itself, I found myself really liking this reel of deleted scenes, maybe because it's more relaxed character stuff and not awkwardly mugging for laughs. If you thought Bob Oedenkirk was wasted in the final cut, he does get some more screentime -- and actual spoken dialogue, even! -- here. There are six scenes in the sense of...y'know, scenes, and there's also a montage of outtakes with Demetri Martin rattling off some handicapable raunch.
- Cast Get-Together (8 min.; mostly HD): The stars of Take Me Home Tonight sit down for this really short retrospective about a movie they shot four years ago. There's no interviewer or anything...just them gabbing and laughin' to each other for eight minutes. They compare the characters with the actors who played 'em, Dan Fogler talks about learning to drive so he could convincingly steal a car here, Chris Pratt explains why his character's wearing a cast, and some old footage is unearthed of Anna Faris and Topher Grace sharing a warm, totally G-rated duet. Standard-def outtakes from the movie and audition footage are scattered throughout.
- Music Boom Box: Shove a virtual cassette into a virtual tape deck and be magically whisked away to a band bio an' leap to the scene in the Take Me Home Tonight where that song is showcased. There are twelve '80s tracks in all.
- Promotional Stuff (3 min.; HD): Last up...? One trailer. Two TV spots. All of it in high-def.
The second disc in the set is a digital copy for use on iTunes-powered gear. If you have a Zune or a PSP, then...well, you really oughtta be used to that sort of disappointment by now.
The Final Word
I think I'd have dug Take Me Home Tonight a lot more if the failed stabs at comedy were shoved to the sidelines and it focused on the more character-centric stuff instead. The predictably toxic Dan Fogler aside, the movie's assembled a pretty terrific ensemble, and they're really charming and likeable when Take Me Home Tonight doesn't feel so labored and overly telegraphed. Rent It.
I Guess I Have a Couple of Leftover Screengrabs