I am a sucker for the ‘80s. If it were up to me, I would go back in time and live out the better half of my high school and college years three decades ago. So when I heard the premise of Take Me Home Tonight (named after the 1986 Eddie Money single), I was hooked from the start.
You have your ever-clichéd story arc: Matt (Topher Grace), a guy who has long pined for his high school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer), but never had a chance with her in high school. He is dismayed when he, after 10 years, sees her walk into the video store where he works. Lying about what he does, Matt feels that this is finally “the in” to get the girl of his dreams. Sound familiar?
Now, there are also two additional storylines parallel to the main plot. One follows Matt ’s best friend, Barry (Dan Fogler), who, after losing his job, tries to live the college experience he never had all in one night, and the other follows Wendy (Anna Faris) who tries to decide between going off to Cambridge University or staying with her boyfriend/fiancé Kyle (Chris Pratt ). With a guest role by Michelle Trachtenberg, this movie has a pretty funny cast that has good chemistry with one another, making the story that much more believable.
The plot is by no means a new concept. From American Graffiti to Superbad, we have seen the “best night ever” shtick used time and time again. But what it does try to do is step away from making a movie that stereotypes the ‘80s. It is not an ‘80s movie, or a parody of the decade, but a movie that happens to be set in the ‘80s. As Grace put it in an interview on the radio talk show Loveline, there are not jokes centered on how goofy the ‘80s were. You will not hear comments about how crazy the hair styles are, or tongue-in-check references exclaiming how their big and bulky cordless phones are “so small.” Instead, the fi lm uses its time period subtly and with grace, paying homage to, instead of mocking, the ‘80s, unlike so many other films.
The problem with this movie, however, is that it oft en seems hackneyed for those who are not fans of the nostalgic culture of the time. As much as it tries to veer from being “just another ‘80s fi lm,” it is much easier to appreciate if one can understand, or at least enjoy, the mindset of the culture. Take Me Home Tonight may not be enough for the fly-by-night movie watcher. The dialogue can be dumb at some points, and if you are anywhere familiar with this genre of fi lm, you can pretty much tell the ending before the opening credits are through.
Overall, it is not a horrible movie. Obviously, it is not a Citizen Kane, nor is it Superbad. But if you enjoy silly ‘80s movies, you will have a blast.