Take Me Home Tonight
Release Date: March 4, 2011
Director: Michael Dowse
Writers: Jackie Filgo & Jeff Filgo (screenplay), Topher Grace & Gordon Kaywin (story)
Stars: Topher Grace, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler
MPAA Rating: R
Successful comedies rely on a strong script and great jokes. Lacking both of those things, Take Me Home Tonight instead attempts to coast by with an 80s motif and a copious amount of f-bombs. Unfortunately, all of the big hair and four letter words can’t hide the fact that the film is nothing but a series of tired sitcom clichés and unfunny jokes.
The story follows three main characters – twins Matt and Wendy Franklin (Topher Grace and Anna Faris, respectively) and Matt’s wacky sidekick Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler). All three characters are trapped in a state of arrested development and are hoping a night out on the town will help lift their spirits and distract them from their stalled lives.
Matt is a combination of various well-worn underdog/slacker main character tropes. He was a socially-awkward genius in high school who pined for the beautiful Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), but never could work up the nerve to ask for her phone number. Since graduating from M.I.T., he’s too scared and unsure of himself to do anything meaningful with his life, so he now works at Suncoast Video.
Wendy is another character you’ve seen countless times before – the overachieving girl who has outgrown her meathead boyfriend, but is too afraid to leave him. Wendy dreams of going to Cambridge as a grad student, but her boyfriend is like an anchor around her neck keeping her from moving on to bigger and better things.
Dan Fogler has carved out a career being a poor man’s Jack Black and this film is more of the same. Unlike Matt and Wendy, Barry never went to college and has instead spent his post-high school years working as a sleazy car salesman. He gets fired from the dealership at the beginning of the film, which sends him down a “wacky” path that involves stealing a car from the dealership, doing lots of coke and competing in an impromptu dance contest. (I really wish someday people would realize that the whole fat guy dancing thing will never be as funny as when Chris Farley did it and they should simply stop trying to recreate that magic.)
All three story arcs are ones you’ve seen countless times before and this film doesn’t even try to offer a fresh spin on these familiar roles. There’s nothing particularly compelling or fun about any of the three. Making matters worse, the performances given by Grace, Faris and Fogler feel like they were simply going through the motions on this film to cash a paycheck.
Also, Matt’s story revolves around the fact that he’s too terrified to ever do anything risky, but somehow in the middle of the film he becomes a brazen, reckless guy willing to confront Tori’s lecherous boss and to break into someone’s backyard to whimsically jump on their trampoline. After spending the first part of the film establishing just how socially-awkward and timid Matt is (which they do a good job on), the change in his persona comes completely out of left field and feels disingenuous.
But the biggest problem with Take Me Home Tonight is that it’s just not funny. All of the jokes are obvious and worn out. There isn’t a single gag in the film that warrants anything beyond a slight chuckle.
What’s most frustrating about the lack of comedy is that the film has two great comedic actors in it that are given absolutely nothing to do. Bob Odenkirk, who is capable of being brilliantly funny when given the right material, has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Barry’s boss at the car dealership. And Michael Ian Black, a man who has mined comedy gold from the time period in VH1’s I Love The 80s specials, is completely miscast as Tori’s aforementioned lecherous boss – the role could have been played by anyone and it doesn’t play to any of Black’s strengths as a comedian.
So if your 80s nostalgia has you wanting to see this film, do yourself a favor and simply go watch I Love the 80s or one of the countless films or sitcoms from that decade that this movie borrows so heavily from. At least then the jokes won’t feel so stale.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.