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Blu-ray Review: Take Me Home Tonight

Topher Grace, a lad whose entire career has basically consisted of little more than That ‘70s Show and upsetting Spider-Man fans up until this moment in time (look, that whole movie was doomed from the get-go: blame the studio, dammit), is out to prove a point. His argument goes something like this: “Look, I’m really capable of doing more. Really.” And I don’t disbelieve him on this one, either, kids: I happen to think Topher is a really talented feller — one that just doesn’t seem to get the credit he deserves. Seriously, I’m being legit here. Honest.

In his first film as actor/writer/producer, Senor Gracia goes the distance by bringing us Take Me Home Tonight — which many people might classify as Topher Grace’s Hot Tub Time Machine. And, while there are some similarities between the two movies (e.g. they’re both set in the ‘80s), there’s no possible way you can accuse Topher of ripping off John Cusack: for starters, there’s no hot tub, nor is there a time machine. Oh, that, and it took four years for Take Me Home Tonight to get released…which makes Monsieur La Grâce the clear victor here.

Shot in 2007, and given the temporary titles of Young Americans and Kids In America, Topher’s ode to the ‘80s and all that wonderful music and styles that are commonly associated with it found itself sitting on the shelf when Universal Studios found themselves at a standstill over the fact that the film featured some cocaine use. This is the same company that has released most of Judd Apatow’s flicks, mind you. Personally, I think the reason they didn’t want to take a chance on Take Me Home Tonight was because of Spider-Man 3. Yup, it sure smells like a conspiracy to me, kids.

Anyway, after Imagine Entertainment said “Yeah, sure, we’ll take a gamble on this one,” Take Me Home Tonight finally hit the silver screen: a venture that resulted in a very poor box office run — unlike Hot Tub Time Machine, which was not only a much lewder film (although still funny), but actually made some money at the cinema. Go figure. So, here we are: the inescapable home video release of a movie that didn’t do as well as it’s more-popular ‘80s nostalgia counterpart (don’t bring Adventureland into this, either: it was also made after this one — albeit by just a few months).

So, why the failure here? Well, I’m guessing it’s because this is more of a drama than a comedy. The story here centers on MIT graduate and mathematics genius Matt Franklin (Grace), who now finds himself working at Suncoast Video after becoming disillusioned with the world and what it — not to mention his hardworking folks — expects of him. After running into the beautiful Tori Fredreking (Teresa Palmer) — a girl from high school whom he has always had a crush on — one afternoon at work, he begins to do what every other dumb, red-blooded American kid tends to do: he lies about his life because he’s afraid to admit the reality of his existence.

While his unwarranted fibs nevertheless succeed in leading him into the arms of his object of admiration after a truly unruly (yet killer!) night out in Los Angeles in a stolen Benz — another object of desire courtesy of Matt’s stereotypical big-boned best friend, Barry Nathan (as played by Dan Fogler) — they also lead him into mucho trouble. The drama also increases as Matt’s twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris, whose hair and getup is nowhere near as it’s depicted on the box) receives a marriage proposal from her dumb, beefy beau (Chris Pratt). Lucy Punch, Michelle Trachtenberg, Angie Everhart, Demetri Martin and Michael Ian Black co-star, and the great Michael Biehn turns in a wonderfully sublime performance as Topher’s policeman father.

Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that Take Me Home Tonight is not at all like any of those raunchy comedies you might try to associate it with (and shame on you if you do). That said, Take Me Home Tonight actually emerges as possessing a lot more heart than you’d (incorrectly) guess it would have (which is probably why it didn’t make a killing at the box office: afterall, who wants to feel?). It’s a better-than-average coming-of-age dramedy (one that leaves American Pie in the dust, in my opinion), one that is not only chockfull of some truly classic tunes from the ‘80s, but shows us that Topher Grace can overcome his Eric Forman/Eddie Brock personas if we’ll just let him.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of Adam Becvar, a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has wasted a vast majority of his life watching movies - so much so, that a conventional life is no longer in the equation for him. He lives alone (big surprise there) in a rural home with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Really.