Take Me Home Tonight is, without question, one of the ten best comedies that will be released this year. It has heart, skillful camera work and more than a couple of big laughs, but there’s a good chance you’ll see none of that because so many of my fellow critics have mistakenly decided it’s terrible. It’s not. I won’t lie to you and say it’s as good as The Forty Year Old Virgin, but most movies aren’t. In fact, the majority of comedies are awful. They’re absolute shit like Just Go With It. Lazy, disorganized and most importantly, not funny, they exist merely to make a buck without care for their own characters or the audience that’s foolishly paid to see them. Comedy, like anything else, is about presenting new and interesting ideas, and Take Me Home Tonight is chock full of ‘em, letting its characters dream, make life decisions and behave in totally realistic—and funny—manners. To paraphrase Joe from Idiocracy, it’s about knowing who’s ass farted and why that’s funny.
In spite of this, Take Me Home Tonight has been getting slandered by idiotic, out-of-touch critics since it was released yesterday. Most have used words and phrases like “sophomoric”, “drunk” and “pointless” to describe its chaotic, one-night plot, but it’s actually not any of those things. It’s grown-up, sober and highly pointed, but there’s no explaining that to critics who seem to think a vomit is a vomit is a vomit and boobs are boobs are boobs. Just because characters behave in a juvenile manner doesn’t mean the subject matter is being dealt with in a base, unsophisticated manner. Here we have three characters with no idea what to do with their lives. Matt, an MIT graduate, is working at Suncoast Video because he’s unwilling to commit to anything which might trap him. Wendy, who recently applied to Cambridge, is stuck in an unfulfilling relationship with the most popular idiot in high school that hasn’t grown up. And Barry, bless his heart, is a mess. They may not have figured out where they’re going, but for one night, all three sure as hell try.
There are so many reasons this film is worth seeing. Out of consideration for your time and unwillingness to spoil it all, we’ve narrowed those reasons to four. None involve Topher Grace’s handsomeness.
Most Critics Don’t Know Comedy
You know those blowhard jackasses who say things like screw the critics, they’re always wrong anyway? I am not one of those jackasses. In fact, in many ways I’m the opposite. If there’s one thing going to the movies twice a week for the last decade has taught me, it’s that critics, when overwhelmingly agreeing with each other, are almost always right.
If ninety percent of critics tell you a movie is worth your time, chances are it’s worth your time. For the most part, these people know. You shouldn’t rely on them to formulate your own opinions, but you can rely on them in determining which films to see—with one very overt and powerful exception. Your average critic doesn’t know shit about comedy. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Roger Ebert’s track record. The man is, without question, the greatest film critic of all-time. His words on a film count almost as much as the rest of the pack combined. He’s the reason I got into writing about movies, and well, there aren’t enough great things I can say about the man. Except when it comes to comedy. He gave Fast Times At Ridgemont High one star, Raising Arizona one and a half and Caddyshack two and a half. He thumbs down Dumb & Dumber and gave a glowing review to You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. He hated The Wedding Singer, yet lavished praise on The Nutty Professor II. It should come as little surprise to anyone that he called Take Me Home Tonight “inane” in a largely dismissive one and a half star review.
Technical Excellence Is Too Easily Ignored
Critics tend to get caught up in reviewing a movie’s script, but there’s more going on here than what’s written on the page. From a purely technical standpoint, Take Me Home Tonight is miles ahead of its comedic peers. Most comedies use the camera to show us the joke. Director Michael Dowse uses his to tell a story. Because the majority of the scenes take place within a party, this forces him to get a little creative.
He’s up for the challenge, particularly in an extended shot where Matt’s character is confronted with awful news. Shocked and irritated, he zones out while dozens of celebrating partygoers dance around him. It’s a quiet respite amidst chaos, but once the party is left behind, a few more wonderful moments emerge. One takes place on a trampoline, the other in front of a boss prone to sexual harassment. Write both the script and the direction off at your own peril. If you ever go back and take the time to listen and really watch, you’ll notice these cool little shots and complicated undertones exist throughout.
It’s About Twenty-Somethings
People in their twenties are underrepresented. They don’t have expendable income, and they don’t go to the movies. There’s something to be said for a movie like Take Me Home Tonight, a film which is candid, sometimes witty and represents twenty-somethings who are just on the way to getting their shit together quite positively and quite acutely. It’s not easy to not know where you’re going. Some of you may have always been Captain-have-your-shit-together, but I bet most of you at one point or another felt the way Matt Franklin and Tori Frederking feel in Take Me Home Tonight. You may have just forgotten, boozed your feelings away, or maybe those feelings make you too uncomfortable to ever have faced them properly.
There’s a generation gap with Take Me Home Tonight that’s likely influencing reaction. Older people might poke fun at the film’s incessant use of vulgarity, the large amount of nakedness, the certain stupidity that comes with being a young adult at that age. It’s alright to be a cocksucker, but this is often how life for a kid in his or her twenties is. People drink too much and throw up. Some kids are smart and don’t have their shit together, some kids are idiots and kind of do have their shit together--it goes many ways. The moments of idiocy in Take Me Home Tonight aren’t pointless or silly. Some of them are even inspiring. And some of them are really fuckin’ funny.
Chuck Klosterman once wrote about a night he met a random girl and spent the whole evening discussing the merits of Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. He never saw her again. He then reflects about how nothing like that would ever happen to him now. This stuff happens in your twenties. You meet people, sometimes you make poor decisions, and sometimes you hook up with your high school crush or a hot cougar or the pot-selling business major who lives next door. Then, you grow up, and move on. I get why people wouldn't necessarily want to relive those moments on the big screen; however, this fact shouldn't tarnish the value of the concept. Hating moments from your past shouldn't deride a film as harmless, intriguing, and well put-together as Take Me Home Tonight.
Much of the credit for this success should go to Anna Faris and Dan Fogler, and neither of their names is exactly the type to garner respect. As you may know, each has a tendency to shoot for the fences, and in doing so, structure characters so over-the-top they no longer resemble anything we would meet in real life. Not here. Faris lets herself be swallowed up by her louder boyfriend. She lets the comedy come from understated reactions and great brother/ sister chemistry with Topher Grace. Watch her face near the end when she finds out a secret about her twin for the first time.
Then watch Dan Fogler’s. The star of such forgettable comedies as Balls Of Fury is great here, playing sixty percent as ridiculous. It may not seem a huge change, but because of that scale-back, his fat and loud schtick feels familiar, not annoying. He isn’t an obnoxious product of his movie environment, he’s an obnoxious dude we’d roll our eyes at in real life. And if that’s not enough, Topher Grace is steady as always, Chris Pratt is extremely funny in his limited work and Teresa Palmer turns her role into a lot more than just eye candy.
A look back at Roger Ebert’s review tells me viewers are giving this film three stars. They’re right. Take Me Home Tonight is a movie for all twenty-somethings and for anyone brave enough to want to remember the lives they led when they were still a little bit out of control. It’s a wonderful way to spend two hours. It’s better than its counterparts and absolutely worth your time. Please see it, and just this once, ignore the critics.
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