It, like, totally pains me to say this, but "Take Me Home Tonight" is a bummer.
A nostalgic homage to the romantic-comedy romps of the 1980s, "Take Me Home Tonight" cycles through all the conventions of the genre without breathing any new life into them, or offering characters who are developed well enough to make us care about them.
Director Michael Dowse's film isn't a full-on John Hughes parody, like "Not Another Teen Movie," but it still may as well come with a checklist at the door, just so you can keep track of all the "80s cliches. It would make the whole experience a little more fun and interactive.
There's the wild, all-night party that brings together people from varying social strata, the nerdy guy who finally gets the girl of his dreams, the pretty, popular girl who's tired of being pretty and popular. And like the similarly big-haired, acid-washed "Hot Tub Time Machine," it wallows in the period kitsch, complete with one-hit wonders like "Safety Dance" and "Come On Eileen" (although, thankfully, the Eddie Money song of the same name as the film's title is nowhere to be found). But once you get past giggling at how ridiculous we all looked back then, you realize there isn't much story there to keep you hooked.
Topher Grace, the film's star, actually helped come up with that story, and the movie itself exists in a bit of a time warp; "Take Me Home Tonight" was shot back in 2007, and is just now seeing the light of day. So just to make the whole exercise feel even more weirdly dated, Grace in real life is now 32.
In the movie, though, the year is 1988, and Grace's character, Matt Franklin, has just graduated from MIT. But instead of landing some prestigious engineering job, he's working at a video store at the mall and living at home with his parents in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. (For all you true fans out there, Matt and his friends went to Shermer High School - the fictional high school where John Hughes set his tales.) But as is so often the case in these movies, this reserved guy goes a little crazy over one long night.
Along for the ride are his twin sister, Wendy (Anna Faris), and his obligatory, wacky best friend, Barry (Dan Fogler, essentially doing a Sam Kinison impression). They all go to an end-of-summer bash because they know that Tori (Teresa Palmer), the beautiful, blonde prom queen Matt's secretly loved from afar, will be there. Back in high school, Tori wouldn't give Matt the time of day on her Swatch watch. But now that she thinks he's a big-time banker with Goldman Sachs, she's suddenly interested.
Naturally, all his lies will catch up with him, and his moment of truth will come before a massive group of people. But first, Barry does insane amounts of cocaine and winds up in a creepy threesome (the only scene that's truly funny or unexpected) and Wendy must decide whether to marry her longtime boyfriend, a jerk named Kyle (Chris Pratt). Since he's so clearly wrong for her, there's never any tension in this subplot.
Grace ordinarily has a ton of natural likability - he's got that boy-next-door thing going, combined with a confident, deadpan sense of humor. Here, it's such a foregone conclusion that Matt and Tori will end up together despite the brief contrivances in their way, there's no point in wasting the energy to root for them. You may as well busy yourself with your Rubik's Cube.
"Take Me Home Tonight," a Relativity Media release, is rated R for language, sexual content and drug use. Running time: 97 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.