'80s flashback film draws broad laughs but is mostly bland

Posted: March 04, 2011

In case you didn't get your '80s fix in 2010 - "Hot Tub Time Machine," "MacGruber," "Let Me In" - 2011 delivers another dose with "Take Me Home Tonight."

The title refers to the Eddie Money classic-rock tune, and also to the ambitions of protagonist Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) who attends a high-school reunion looking to impress the girl (Teresa Palmer) he secretly adored in high school.

The long-shelved "Take Me Home Tonight" falls into the one-crazy-night school of nostalgia, setting the characters' anxieties about the future against a wacky narrative backdrop.

Though a movie about the '80s, "Take Me Home Tonight" reflects the cinematic tenor of today, so its comedy is more "Superbad" than "American Graffiti."

Matt's sidekick (Dan Fogler, channeling Jack Black and Jeremy Piven) steals a car, stumbles onto a mound of cocaine, and (in the movie's manic-comedy highlight) is invited to service an older woman while her creepy husband looks on.

Movie comedian Anna Faris plays Matt's older sister, who's trying to decide whether to continue a relationship with her shallow boyfriend.

"Take Me Home Tonight" is fairly tame and conventional - given the ribald state of comedy today, it's hard to believe it sat around for two years because the studio reportedly balked at the picture's drug use.

A more defensible reason for delay is the movie's core blandness. "Take Me Home Tonight" gets some broad laughs but has a harder time finding any emotional substance.

There's something underrealized about Grace's character - his uncertainty feels more like dithering than epochal anxiety. Grace is a shifty, resourceful actor - he was terrific as a corporate hatchet man in "In Good Company."

Here, he appears to be playing a younger version of that guy, still in his formative years, but without the narrative tools to make the character resonate.

"Take Me Home Tonight" is a better pedestal for Palmer, ideally cast as the quintessential California blonde. That's a credit to her accent. She's an Aussie - you can see her as her native self in "I Am Number Four."

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