What is Matt Franklin doing? His high school’s resident genius, who always admired the pretty girls but never dared speak to them, he graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and came home to reap the benefits. Then he started working at Suncoast Video.
What happened to his ambition? His dad (Michael Biehn) wonders. His sister (Anna Faris), preoccupied by misgivings about her dimwitted boyfriend Kyle (Chris Pratt), politely skirts the topic. All Matt (Topher Grace) knows is that he wants out of the video store. The rest is a mystery.
Uncertainty among twentysomethings is hardly an unexplored concept in movies — consider, for a moment, “The Graduate” — but “Take Me Home Tonight,” which sets their misadventures against an 1980s backdrop, isn’t intent on reinventing the wheel, just putting its own gentle spin on it.
Rather than settling for the most outrageous gross-outs, Grace, who co-wrote and produced “Tonight,” seems intent on memorializing his characters and the culture of excess they embrace one fateful evening. Of all Matt’s friends, nobody embraces it harder (or more irresponsibly) than Barry (Dan Fogler), his Bluto-like partner in crime.
Playing the party guy with the lampshade stuck on his head carries the risk of seeming obnoxious, but Fogler is a whirling dervish who wears his devil-may-care hedonism very nicely.
No young man’s coming-of-age story would be complete without a girl, and not just any girl, but an apparently unattainable beauty whose mere glance reduces young men to mush.
She is Tori (Teresa Palmer, of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), both pretty and disarmingly open. Matt pursues her, and discovers she’s harder to keep than to catch.
That’s because Matt makes the time-honored movie mistake of lying to make an impression. Eventually the truth will win out; the only question is when. Can he weather the storm? He can, of course, because his heart is in the right place, even if his tactics, born of insecurity, are dubious.
At times, “Tonight” pushes the envelope of questionable taste — some things are inescapable in movies like this — but like Matt, it wears its good intentions on its sleeve. The humor is more sweet than raunchy, and the nostalgia hand is rarely overplayed. The characters, whom we grow to like and root for, are not defined by the ’80s. They just happen to live there.
Take Me Home Tonight ???
Starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Chris Pratt
Written by Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Topher Grace, Gordon Kaywin
Directed by Michael Dowse
Running time 1 hour 37 minutes