"Take Me Home Tonight" is a 10-years-too-late comedy. It's '80s nostalgia vamped up by people who were too young to have lived through the actual '80s but entirely too old to be playing college kids nostalgic for their '80s high school glory days.
It’s “Hot Tub Time Machine” without the time machine or the hot tub. Or the fun that entailed.
Topher Grace, now a well-preserved 32, is Matt, a recent MIT grad working for Suncoast Video while he tries to decide what to do with his life. Anna Faris, 34, is Wendy, Matt’s twin sister, equally directionless and also working at Suncoast. Dan Fogler, 34, is Barry, Matt’s burly, boozy loose-cannon pal. He skipped college and is regretting it.
Their story? Straight out of the ’90s: the “Can’t Hardly Wait” tale of a guy who never confessed to his high school crush. Teresa Palmer plays Tori, the object of Matt’s crush. At 24, she’s the right age to be playing somebody just starting her career and her life.
Through one wild, long night, Matt, Barry, Wendy and Tori experience multiple parties, freaky L.A. sex, cocaine, grand theft auto and a deadly dare. Each character has a moment of truth.
Texture is what we look for in nostalgia pieces, and ’80s nostalgia – which was briefly a big deal in the ’90s – is all about skinny ties, moussed hair, Duran Duran and “Safety Dance,” which are delivered in copious quantities with a little cocaine on the side.
Life lessons are doled out as well. Matt, who is driving his cop dad (Michael Biehn) and his sister nuts with his indecision, must decide to “go for it.” Barry must figure out he’s on a dead-end street and find purpose. Wendy needs to open that envelope from grad school and decide what to do with the boyfriend who just proposed to her at his big Labor Day party.
And Tori? She has to decide whether this guy with his sports jacket sleeves rolled up is just a poseur claiming to work at Goldman Sachs or somebody she shouldn’t have ignored in high school.
Grace, who came up with the story idea for this much-delayed comedy, has some nice scenes pretending to be a currency trader. He went to MIT, remember? He can fake the math. There’s a good father-son moment, too.
“Take a shot at something, son!”
“I don’t even know where to aim.”
It’s a shame Grace didn’t get this up and running right after “That ’70s Show” ended. Even taking into account how long it sat on the shelf, hampered by a ratings controversy, he and those he surrounded himself with are a bit long in the tooth to make this work.
Faris, not playing the dumb blonde for once, finds the confusion and pathos in Wendy. She doesn’t want to hurt the guy who wants to tie her down for life. If only she were a convincing 20something.
Fogler seems doomed to play the flailing fat frat boy, but we’ve seen everything Barry does here before and better. The parties director Michael Dowse stages are retreads of everything from “Animal House” to name-any-other-’80s-or-’90s youth comedy.
The lessons of these movies are all the same: You can go back and make sure you don’t live the rest of your life bitter that you didn’t “go for it.” But you can’t go back, no matter how many Hollywood agents say, “You could still pass for 22, sure!”
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT
* 1/2 ***
Cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Teresa Palmer, Dan Fogler
Director: Michael Dowse
Running time: 1:37
Rating: R; language, sexual content, drug use