'80s nostalgia better forgotten
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, March 4, 2011
There's a market for 1980s nostalgia. How else could you explain the excitement (and surprisingly warm reception) for last year's "Hot Tub Time Machine"? Those yellow Sony Walkmans are funny, and who doesn't love a good Jheri curl? So the setting for "Take Me Home Tonight" - Southern California circa 1988 - should provide some decent laughs, between the mountains of cocaine, pastel popped collars and "Bette Davis Eyes." But after the gimmick begins to fade, what remains is less than likable characters inhabiting an all-too-familiar plot.
Topher Grace plays Matt, a listless recent MIT grad who returns home to work at a video store in the mall. He's still lusting after his high-school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer, looking uncannily like a platinum-haired Kristen Stewart), and finds the perfect opportunity to woo her during a rager thrown by his twin sister's boyfriend. And because all such movies require some shenanigans, Matt makes the misguided decision to lie, telling Tori he works at Goldman Sachs. To bolster this fable, he steals a Mercedes with the help of his best friend, Barry (Dan Fogler, presumably cast for his resemblance to Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds"), and the pair finds a gigantic bag of blow in the glove compartment.
If director Michael Dowse took Matt and Tori out of the equation - which is to say, if he took out the main storyline - the whole event could have been a lot more fun. Fogler works hard to add the chubby guy physical humor, and while he's no Chris Farley, or even Jack Black for that matter, he has a respectable 50 percent comedic success rate. Watching Fogler nervously psych himself up to snort a line of cocaine and fumble his way through a dance-off provides the movie's biggest laughs. Even some of the edgier scenes, including one in which he's coerced into a threesome, will be sure to score some horrified guffaws. Comedian Demetri Martin also has an amusing cameo as a fast-talking investment banking jerk prepared to steamroll people with his wheelchair.
But when the plot veers into relationship territory, it gets painful, and not just because Matt gets so nervous when Tori materializes. It's hard to want the pair to end up together when the witty banter consists of "truth or dare" on a backyard
trampoline, a discussion about how women can always tell when men glance at their breasts and the "penis game," during which contestants increase the volume of their voices while shouting a word that's taboo for fourth-graders. If that sounds familiar, there's a reason: That game also made an appearance in "500 Days of Summer," during which it was both cuter and funnier.
If only it were possible to extract the love story from this love story, then the result would be something akin to a silly, if dubiously tasteful, comedy, which would be an improvement. Of course, the film could have also relied on fond memories of the '80s, but after the initial reminders of the era, all that remains is costuming in the form of blazers and head-to-toe leather. But by then, a dress made from sparkly lame does nothing but serve as a reminder that all that glitters is not gold.
Contains nudity, drug use, sexual situations and profanity.