Topher Grace would like you to remember 'Take Me Home Tonight,' his admitted pet project, as an homage to every John Hughes movie ever made. He'd like you to remember it as an instant classic piece of nostalgia. A movie that you'll pick up every time you have a hankering to revisit the awkward 80s. It's too bad none of these lofty goals are met. It's too bad that 'Take Me Home Tonight' is mediocre at best. It's just too bad.
Matt Franklin (Grace) is a naturally smart MIT graduate who has come back home to California and proceeded to use his hard earned education to work at Suncoast Video. He doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. He's stagnant. He pines for his high school crush Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer). He regrets never asking her out in high school. Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler) is Matt's best friend and the requisite funny guy (that term is relative) in the movie. Fogler tries his best Jack Black/Jim Belushi impression with disastrous consequences. He ping-pongs around the plot for the sole purpose of getting into outlandish shenanigans – kinky sex with a cougar, stealing a car, getting fired from his job etc. The first time you see him on screen you say, "Yup, this is going to be the guy who will pull ridiculous faces and fall down a lot."
'Take Me Home Tonight' takes place during one night in Matt Franklin's life. His sister's boyfriend is throwing a party and Matt knows Tori will be there. That's the set up. Matt has one night to woo Tori and make up for those years of disappointment.
Grace plays the same neurotic twenty-something that we've seen him play in just about every other movie he's ever been in. He's like David Schwimmer reincarnated. Don't get me wrong, I usually love watching Grace act, but this is the same thing he's done time and time again.
We know what must happen. Matt and Tori must meet, and there must be a slight chance that Matt will be able to win her over. It can't be too easy or else there wouldn't be any conflict. In other words the story is a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy formula. So, then we're left hoping something unique will set it apart. Help it stand out from the rest. Instead of being a subtle 80s period piece with depth and interesting characters like 'Adventureland,' 'Take Me Home Tonight' plays out more like a best-of for the decade. The movie blasts all the obligatory 80s songs just in case you forgot what time period it was. It slaps you in the face hoping you'll accept it as innocent nostalgia.
Then there's The Ball. What's The Ball? Well, imagine a giant metal ball constructed from scrapheap metal. It's hollow, so someone can sit in it. Then it's rolled down a hill. You can tell that this movie would like us to think fondly of a scene where someone is stupid enough to get into the ball and roll down the hill. Like we'll reminisce fondly about that classic Ball Scene. The movie wants us to remember it the same way we remember John Cusack holding up his immortal boombox. Unfortunately for them it doesn't work. While the ball is rolling we wonder who would think up a contraption like this, and if someone did indeed die while rolling in it, how many years in prison would its creator get.
'Take Me Home Tonight' is as desperate as its lead. They both want to be loved, but they just go about it the wrong way.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 2-disc set. The movie comes housed on a 50GB Dual Layer disc courtesy of Fox. There's also a disc included for the Digital Copy. The case indicates a region A only release.
This is one of those movies that's perfectly clear and clean, but the artistic decisions hamper the HD picture just a tad. To make it look all 80s all the time, the picture is given a softer diffuse look that inherently washes out some of the finer detail that would be present otherwise. However, not much attention should be paid to this because this is how the movie is supposed to look.
Colors are vibrant and lively as the characters dress in all sorts of neon clothing that we shudder at the idea of wearing nowadays. Blacks appear inky and,well, black, giving the picture a good amount of depth and clear shadow delineation. As most of the movie takes place at night it was crucial that low light scenes were easily distinguishable and clear. They are. Crushing is rarely, if ever, a nuisance.
I didn't notice any other glaring problems with this transfer. You'll be perfectly happy with the way it looks.
The movie's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track features the 80s in all its glory. Whenever a famous 80s song blasts onto the soundtrack it echoes through the soundfield trying to conjure up an 80's-riffic world in your minds. LFE is present during most of the party scenes as rock music from the period blares from speakers.
Dialogue is always intelligible. Surrounds are relentlessly active with raucous partiers dancing and singing the night away. When the giant steel ball starts rolling down the street and we see Matt inside of it, the entire sound stage clinks and clangs creating and encompassing effect that envelopes the room. Directionality seamlessly places sound effects exactly where they should be in the soundfield like when the metal ball bounces off cars parked on the side of the street, crunching fenders as it goes.
The mix does a good job at keeping the 80s alive in the way of music. The soundtrack here is one of the best parts of the movie, even if most of the songs were obviously picked for just such a feeling.
I really wanted to like 'Take Me Home Tonight,' but in the end it tries way too hard to be liked. It wants to ride the coattails of movies past, without creating an identity of its own. The audio and video presentations will keep you happy if you decide to watch, but the special features are a bit of a letdown. Since this was such an important movie to Grace I was sure he'd have put together an audio commentary for it. Alas, he didn't. 'Take Me Home Tonight' is a solid rental recommendation in my book. You may be curious to see what it's about and if it's worth your time. Renting it would be the best way to find out.