“The Fredricking does not roll in a Kumquat.”
The Scoop: 2011 R, directed by Michael Dowse and starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler
Tagline: Best. Night. Ever.
Summary Capsule: Three friends embark on a nutty night of partying, soul searching, and cocaine snorting.
Justin’s rating: It’s both cherry and choice!
Justin’s review: I think a lot of our attraction to certain types of movies comes from fervent dreamwishing on our part. We like watching stories of experiences we don’t have in our lives, or people who we wish we were like but aren’t. I’m not going to ever jump behind the wheel of a Camaro and go on a high-speed chase with bullet-slinging bad guys, but it can be fun to watch. I really hope I don’t find myself as a wasteland warrior in a post-apocalyptic nightmare, but it’s fun to imagine what if.
I’m also not the party guy nor am the proud owner of a time machine, but I kind of like watching ’80s party movies with the relatable cocky good-looking John Cusack type even so. In this last instance, Take Me Home Tonight hits the spot, and good.
It’s nothing more — or less — than one of those fun party flicks where everyone’s life changes over the course of a single wild night, and there’s probably a romance and a gross misunderstanding and a dance-off and a car wreck involved. Yet for a film from 2011, it does a remarkable job of bringing back the ’80s in a way that isn’t the “Look, ha-ha, it’s old retro stuff!” that I’ve seen in plenty of post-80s ’80s films, but in a way that recaptures how movies were made back then. The director stated that he wanted to “Do something that felt like it was literally made in the ’80s” instead of making a parody, and I think that was the right decision. The humor doesn’t come from its Decade of Me setting, that’s just when it happens to take place.
Take Me Home Tonight stars your lovable loser Matt (Topher Grace) who’s fresh out of MIT, carries a torch for his high school sweetheart, and has no idea what to do with his life; his chubby friend Barry (Dan Fogler) who gets fired from his car dealership job and snaps a little inside; Matt’s sister Wendy (Anna Faris), who’s dating a clueless jock; and Tori (Teresa Palmer), Matt’s crush and… well, she looks pretty. Throw them all into a blender of two parties, and stuff’s going to get sorted out.
If you like flicks like Sixteen Candles, American Grafitti, Dazed and Confused, or (my personal favorite) Can’t Hardly Wait, this is right up your alley. It’s the very definition of a comfort film.
While it does have a few elements like drug use and a sex scene that seems required in modern comedies, Take Me Home Tonight actually feels less of a gross-out comedy than a good-hearted romp. While I was wincing whenever Matt had his early “awkward” scenes — you know, before he’s required by movie law to burst out of his shell and become a folk hero of yore to the partiers — I appreciated that the brother, sister and friend all had a dynamic going on that suggested more of a backstory than we got. So many movies give us characters who project the aura of “We just met each other the moment the film started,” and that always feels fake to me.
The good here are the laughs; there are several of them, they are genuinely earned, and they are paced throughout the whole movie instead of just the first half. The bad is the character development; I know it’s just a party movie, but the characters’ situations were a shallow rehash of hundreds of similar stories before it that there were literally no surprises. I like to be surprised, even in a comedy movie.
It’s utterly bizarre to me that, while watching this, I could totally see John and Joan Cusack in the roles of the brother and sister. I think that was done on purpose, because it’s not hard envisioning this as a “long-lost” semi-cult classic of the era instead of a pet project that released to a younger audience who thinks of the ’80s as something their parents won’t shut up about. It’s sad that I’d gladly take this film over John Cusack’s actual role in the retro-’80s Hot Tub Time Machine, which had the same potential but blew it all in a sad misfire.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome ’80s soundtrack that underlies most of the scenes. I’ve always been a huge ’80s pop music nut, and it’s wonderful to hear an entire movie with these songs instead of just one used way out of context in a modern film for a cheap laugh.
I’m not here to oversell it — Take Me Home Tonight is the Boston Creme donut of movies, but if you’re looking for more nutritious fare, it’s not going to fill you up. Still, quite tasty for what it is!
- Shooting for the film was finished in 2007, but the studio had a hard time promoting a movie with heavy drug use aimed at teens
- It’s not an 80s movie without Michael Beihn!
Matt: The Fredricking does not roll in a Kumquat.
Matt’s Father: Matthew, the summer’s over. I wanna hear your plan.
Matt: I guess my plan is to keep working at Suncoast video until I figure out what I wanna do with my life.
Matt’s Mother: I just think you have such potential, you could be an astronaut.
Matt: Oh, problem solved. I’ll just be an astronaut.
Barry: Why can’t you give yourself one night of enjoyment? Just one night? Put a little relish on your hot dog!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Dazed and Confused
- Can’t Hardly Wait
- American Grafitti