Friday , March 1 2024
Aw, c'mon, people: give Topher Grace a chance!

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.

Had Take Me Home Tonight been released in 2007 like it was intended to, it probably would have been a hit. Instead, some lame studio execs wussed out and decided to wait. What a pity. Oh, well — maybe Take Me Home Tonight will have the good fortune of becoming a cult classic down the line.

We can only hope.

For its subtle debut on home video in this Blu-ray/Digital Copy Combo, Fox Home Entertainment presents Take Me Home Tonight in an MPEG-4/AVC 1080p transfer that brings out the movie’s vibrant color scheme quite well (lots of pretty blues, yellows, greens…). The detail here is pretty darn good itself, revealing more of the movie’s already-plentiful quantity of anachronisms (and there sure are a lot of ‘em, from the videocassettes at Suncoast to the off-kilter hairstyles). The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack embraces the film’s partygoing activities (and their accompanying songs) quite admirably, and optional English (SDH), Spanish and French subtitles are included.

Take Me Home Tonight’s selection of special features (all of which are in HD) is a hit-and-miss affair. Mostly miss. A handful of deleted scenes aren’t all that bad, though it’s obvious why some of them were cut. The selection concludes with some improvising from co-star Demetri Martin for his introductory scene. The “Cast Get Together” is a short, more-recent featurette that gathers the film’s principal cast members reminiscing (?) after four long years. There’s also a “Music Boombox” that is a huge let down. You’d think — or you’d at least anticipate — that it would be an assortment of the actual songs (“Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Video Killed The Radio Star,” et al)…and maybe even their music videos. Nope, not the case: this feature just takes you to the segment of the movie where that song is heard. Grr.

And then, just when you think you’re actually going to get an authentic, original music video for Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight” in a bonus feature entitled “Take Me Home Tonight Music Video,” you get a newly-produced music video with the movie’s main cast members (once again) dancing to the awful cover of “Don’t You Want Me” by Atomic Tom (who?) and dressing up as characters from ‘80s movies (with some ‘70s and ‘90s stuff thrown in). The highpoint of this video is a nod to The Terminator, wherein Dan Fogler is wearing some aluminum foil on his kisser and the camera pans over to a smirking Michael Biehn, who just waves ‘cuz he doesn’t have to show off like the young folk. What a guy.

Finally in the land of bonus stuff, we have the (released) film’s theatrical trailer and a couple of TV spots. From here, we can see why the movie failed in theaters: they foolishly marketed it as another outrageous comedy (à la Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, etc.).

It isn’t.

But then, that’s probably why I enjoyed it so much.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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