Directed by: Michael Dowse
Premise: A group of college graduates attend a party with many of their former high school classmates and face questions about their futures.
What Works: The lead actors of Take Me Home Tonight do an impressive job with the script that they are given. Topher Grace plays a man overwhelmed by the possibilities of life and has retreated to the familiar even if it is a dead end. His sister, played by Anna Faris, faces a similar choice as she must decide between the uncertainty of graduate school and a professional career or a relationship with a man she may not love anymore. Rounding out the main cast is Dan Fogler as their impulsive friend. Fogler is primarily cast for comic relief, which he delivers, but the actor also hints at dissatisfaction with his lot, making him a sad clown. Although Take Me Home Tonight does not tap the full potential of its characters, the film’s shortcomings are not the fault of the actors.
What Doesn’t: There are two kinds of narrative clichés. The first sends characters with understood desires through familiar journeys. While these stories are predicable, they can be satisfying because the story reconfirms something that is generally accepted as true. The second kind of narrative cliché also sends characters through a familiar pattern but the character’s desire does not match his or her quest, and when the standard plot points are reached, there is a disconnection between character and narrative that makes the story disingenuous. Take Me Home Tonight is in the latter category of cliché. It follows the format of a party story to the letter, never deviating from it in this slightest, treading a path well worn by much better pictures such as American Graffiti, Sixteen Candles, Can’t Hardly Wait, and Superbad without adding anything remotely original or interesting. At the same time it has characters who are frustratingly on the cusp of saying, doing, or even just representing something original or enlightening. But they never do that and instead the story retreats to its checklist of a plot, forcing its characters into choices that make no sense. Take Me Home Tonight attempts to disguise this problem by setting itself in the late 1980s but aside from making nostalgic cultural references and dressing the cast in the sometimes nauseating hair and clothing styles of the period, there is no compelling reason why it should be set in this time, except as a vain hook to get Generation X’ers to watch it.
Bottom Line: Take Me Home Tonight is an empty walk though the formula of a coming-of-age party film. It is resoundingly hollow storytelling that does not accomplish much of anything.
Episode: #330 (March 13, 2011)