Saturday, October 22, 2011

At the Movies: Take Me Home Tonight

Before I start yammering on about Take Me Home Tonight, let me begin with its poster.  It's fun, right?  Colorful, wacky, and nostalgic, it promises hijinks and heart wrapped up in a tidy two hours.  And it delivers.  Of course, maybe that's because I enjoy bubblegum kitsch without expecting anything much deeper.  But that's as good a reason as any, especially on a pizza-soaked Friday night when all you want is to ease into your forty-eight hours of freedom on a cloud of brain candy. 

So, for anyone who missed Take Me Home Tonight when it was in theaters back in March (and if you blinked you did, as it was pulled pretty quickly), it's set in the late 1980s and is about MIT grad Matt Franklin (Topher Grace), a guy who's living with his parents and working at Suncoast Video as he tries to unravel the puzzle of what to do with his life.  Also, he has a buffoonish best friend (Dan Fogler) who's just been fired from a car dealership.  And a crush on high school it girl-turned investment banker Tory Frederking (Teresa Palmer).  And a hard-nosed cop of a dad who wants him to get off his ass and do something already.  And a wise-cracking writer of a twin sister (Anna Faris) who's going through her own stuff, namely the old career vs. marriage dilemma.  If it all sounds a bit familiar, then that's because it is.  It's been done to death and we've seen it before.  But that's the same reason we (okay, I) love it.  We can relate.  Who hasn't wanted to duck into a Suncoast (ahem, shrine to the ultimate form of escapism) or a department store or, heck, a cabin in the woods to lay low and figure things out for awhile?

It doesn't hurt that the kid pondering all of this is Topher Grace.  Always one with a soft spot for nerds, I'd pick him over fellow "That 70s Show" alum Ashton Kutcher any day.  It's his underdog quality, after all, that makes his pursuit of Tori more endearing than creepy.  He quasi-stalks the girl, pretending to run into her at Suncoast as a fellow customer, a move that comes back to bite him later.  But not before bonding with her over a swell of 1980s music in a sea of big-haired, neon color-clad former classmates at big-man-on-campus Kyle Masterson's (Chris Pratt) Labor Day bash.  My biggest complaint?  When Tori gushes that her favorite song is playing, hinting for Matt to ask her to dance, it's Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," not Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight."  It's the title of the movie!  And much more fitting.  And, let's be honest, just a really great song.

As promised by its R rating, Take Me Home Tonight isn't all rainbows and unicorns.  It's riddled with F bombs and other eyebrow-raising behavior as it makes its circuitous way to its hopeful ending.  I say hopeful because there are a few shades of things left up in the air, which I liked.  These unfinished edges make the movie more realistic, bolstering its message that taking a few risks brings us closer to mastering our own destinies.  Deep stuff for something named after an Eddie Money song.          

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