Thursday 22 February 2018

Movies: Take Me Home Tonight **


Paul Whitington

It's not hard to figure out what the makers of Take Me Home Tonight are up to: from the stolen car to the dodgy 80s pop tunes and the unresolved high-school crushes, Michael Dowse's frantic comedy does everything it can to attach itself to the coat tails of the late John Hughes. But while superficially the film has an awful lot in common with the likes of Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and especially Ferris Bueller's Day Off, they were actually made in the 80s, while Take Me Home Tonight is a kind of clumsy tribute to those movies and that decade.

Topher Grace plays Matt Franklin, a young man in late 80s Los Angeles who has failed to get ahead. Absurdly bright but geeky at school, Matt recently qualified from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology with distinction, but instead of going after a high-powered position he has taken a dead-end job at the local video store while he figures out his next move. His parents are beginning to lose patience with him, while, his equally bright twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) is about to marry her entirely unsuitable fiancé.

To add to his other problems, Matt harbours a persistent crush on his old high-school classmate Tori (Teresa Palmer), and he's flabbergasted when she walks into his video store one day. Before she has seen him he leaps from behind the counter and pretends to be browsing himself, and when she recognises him they start talking. Blonde and beautiful and seemingly unattainable, Tori has always made Matt feel -- and act -- like a rabbit in the headlamps. She's now an executive at a high-powered investment bank, and when she asks Matt what he does he panics and tell her he works at Goldman Sachs.

This little lie will eventually land him in a lot of trouble, but in the short term it pays off because Tori tells him she's going to a party that night held by an old high-school classmate. Matt decides to seize the day, and persuades his friend Barry (Dan Fogler) to accompany him to the party.

Barry is one of those fat but fun best friends in a dubious tradition that stretches all the way back to John Belushi. He's just been fired from his job as a car salesman and, in revenge, he persuades Matt to help him steal a flashy sports car from the place. The car will help Matt seem more plausible as a highly paid bank exec, and when they find a bag of cocaine in the glove compartment, the evening's festivities get underway.

Take Me Home Tonight is every bit as crushingly unoriginal as it sounds. Writers Jackie and Jeff Filgo have brought little wit to their recreation of 80s California, and matters aren't helped by Trevor Horn's clumsy and uninspired soundtrack, which begins (rather immodestly) with his own dreadful Buggles hit Video Killed the Radio Star. What jokes there are are crude and tinny, and slapstick is resorted to early and often.

Grace is one of those unfortunate actors who reminds you of lots of other people, from Justin Timberlake to Shia LaBeouf, while remaining curiously indistinct himself. He's not bad exactly, but at 32 he's getting a bit long in the tooth to be playing 20-year-olds, and the same could be said for Fogler and Faris. Fogler tries way too hard, while the talented and normally dependably funny Faris is given very little to work with. Grace, meanwhile, pales a little beside the beautiful and charming Palmer, who does indeed seem out of his league.

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