Sometimes a journey isn’t an epic adventure. Sometimes there are no fantastical landscapes, no Ringwraiths, no traversing forward one aching step at a time. Being in your twenties is a prime time for some sort of wild, wacky, easy, or difficult journey to help figure shit out. Some of us never take that chance. Others of us make Keroauc’s On the Road our Bible. But any of us who have really figured anything out about ourselves did take those aching steps somewhere new and limitless. Even if, sometimes, that just means heading to a party in someone else’s backyard.
Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is a recent MIT graduate with his whole life ahead of him. Unfortunately, he has been squandering that time recently, working at Suncoast Video and staying at his parents' house. His sister, Wendy (Anna Faris), is about to move in with her high school sweetheart. His friends have moved on to jobs or careers, and his own father is pestering him to get his act together.
One day, Matt’s high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), walks back into his life. For the first time in months Matt hatches a plan. Of course, he gets some help from his normally placid best friend Barry (Dan Fogler), who has recently lost his job and is up for anything. Matt will go -- in style -- to his sister’s boyfriend’s sucky high school reunion party, tell The Frederking he works at Goldman Sachs, and hopefully come off as impressive enough to earn a second date. Before then, Matt will be accomplice to an auto theft, witness a cheesy homage to '80s dance styles, and see way too much cocaine. With all that on his plate, maybe Matt doesn’t have a chance, but he’s willing to try anyway.
The plot is mostly a throwback to the poignancy that was so prominent in youthful '80s films. Unfortunately, the fine line critics use to define a retread versus a throwback is always vague. Most would say Take Me Home Tonight is a retread. We’ve been there; we’ve done that. It isn’t enough to say Take Me Home Tonight is a retread -- it might have the heart of an '80s film, but its camera work is well-paced and contemporary, its performances could spar and probably win against any of the young actors John Hughes ever used, and it’s fucking funny. One (necessary) vomit gag aside, most of its best comedy is underhanded, especially from Anna Faris. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you obviously miss it.
It’s true that sometimes Take Me Home Tonight gets lost in its flairs of poignancy and its '80s merchandise. Apparently, we really did need those nine displays of Appetite for Destruction at Suncoast to get what year it's supposed to be. It doesn’t matter. It would have been much harder to place the story in a contemporary setting, when Matt’s malaise could have been written off as part of a crappy economy. In the '80s, you make your own luck. In the 2000s, luck finds you. That attitude sucks. That soundtrack sucks. Take Me Home Tonight is about the day we wake up and decide to do something with ourselves. Throwback or no, it definitely deserves more than the limited, late release that has become its defining factor.
For a DVD copy of a film that didn’t do so hot at the box office, Take Me Home Tonight has a whole lotta love for extras. Seven deleted scenes make up the brunt, including some cuts from hilarious side character Carlos (Demetri Martin). Interestingly, several of the scenes were cuts that were later re-envisioned and showed up the film with the entirely opposite viewpoint. For instance, a scene where Matt is happy his sister is throwing away Cambridge to get married? Still, worth a watch.
The second extra is a cast get-together where Dan Fogler somewhat jokingly comments that Demetri Martin was funnier than he was (fact). There’s also a cute story between Anna Faris and real-life hubby Chris Pratt. I won’t ruin it for you except to say the whole thing is shot in black-and-white, which is weird.
The third extra is a music boom box. At first it looks like a way to play the songs on the soundtrack, which actually would have been awesome. Instead, it is just another way to easily head to a specific scene. So if you wanna see Matt Franklin and his buddy Barry Nathan rap along with “Straight Outta Compton,” you would click on that link, etc. Unfortunately, the only way to hear songs in entirety is to buy the soundtrack. Or YouTube that shit. Well, except for “Take Me Home Tonight.” The video for the Eddie Money song is accessible on the disc.
The last two features include the theatrical trailer and TV spots. I personally enjoy reviewing the way a film is marketed, but I realize most people find this cumbersome. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, but do get your hands on a copy of Take Me Home Tonight.