Take Me Home Tonight (2011) – By Duane L. Martin

It’s the late eighties, and MIT graduate Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) finds himself absolutely aimless. He’s incredibly smart, but after earning his engineering degree, all he wants to do is to work at the Suncoast in the mall until he figures out what to do with his life, which causes no end of irritations between he and his father, who’s a cop and has worked very hard to put both he and his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) through college. Wendy wants to be a writer and has applied to go to Oxford University. She’s received her answer, but is afraid to open it. She’s also dating the rich douche bag they went to high school with, Kyle Masterson (Chris Pratt), who’s about the most utterly obnoxious guy you could imagine, and yet she seems to have deluded herself into believing she’s in love with him. Then there’s Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). He’s an overweight, relatively unattractive car salesman who just got fired, never went to college and has just been fired from his job for trying to scam a customer into thinking they were getting a great deal on a car. He decides it would be a great idea for he and Matt to steal the hottest car on the lot he just got fired from so they could drive it to Kyle’s party. There also just happened to be a big bag of coke in the glove compartment, which Barry used copious amounts of over the course of the evening. Oh, and we can’t forget Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), Matt’s high school crush.

Tori shows up at Suncoast one day, right before Kyle’s annual high school reunion party where basically everyone in town who went to school together there all gathers at his house for a wild night of booze and debauchery, punctuated by the annual bet on whether or not various people will be stupid enough to allow themselves to be rolled down the hill in this giant metal ball. A stunt which no one has ever taken it upon themselves to perform. Matt gets the nerve up to talk to her, and it turns out that she’s a banker now working for some investment firm, and that they’re both going to be at Kyle’s party. What follows is Matt’s quest for lost love, Wendy’s realizations about what she really wants out of life, Barry’s combination of a night from Hell and the best night of his life, Tori’s chance at love and discovery that she doesn’t need to be locked into a career she hates and much, much more.

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? In fact, that’s not even remotely everything that was going on in this film, nor is it all that great of a description, but it’s always hard to describe a film like this that has so many characters and so many different things going on. Basically, Matt’s trying to hook up with the only girl he ever loved, Barry’s just sick of playing by the rules and feeling like a loser after he gets fired from his job, Wendy finds out that what she thought she wanted out of life really isn’t what she wanted, and Tori seems like a nice girl, but then turns out to be a total pain, at least until the end. Shorter, yes, but also less descriptive. Oh well. Let’s get on to the actual review.

I asked for a copy of this film to review for exactly two reasons, in this order. First, Anna Faris is my celebrity crush. I absolutely love Anna Faris, and I always enjoy watching her in anything she does because she’s a really fun and gifted actress. Second…I love comedy. I had high hopes for this one, as I thought it would be a lot funnier than it was. I’m not saying it didn’t have it’s moments, because it most definitely did, but it actually turned out to be one of those "finding love and finding my way in life" comedies rather than just being a full on ball of hilarity. There’s nothing wrong with that really, but it’s not really what the film is promoted to be. I was expecting it to be a lot funnier than it ended up being. That said, this is actually quite a good film for what it is. It’s fun, has some great characters that you can identify with and you walk away from it feeling pretty satisfied with the conclusion. It does suffer from exactly one problem though. The casting.

As I said, I love Anna Faris, but she was pretty wasted in this film playing his sister. She should have been Matt’s love interest, Tori. She’s also shows on the cover looking absolutely beyond gorgeous, while in reality, in the film, she’s very pretty, but just sort of plain looking, even to the point of seeming a bit mousy. She would have been perfect for Tori, while Teresa Palmer, who played Tori, would have been far more perfectly cast as Matt’s sister. That’s really the vibe she had, and when the two of them are together, you could easily see her in the sister role rather than that of the love interest. Then there’s Dan Fogler. The character is supposed to be kind of an annoying loser type, but for me, this casting just didn’t work at all. I didn’t feel any sympathy or connection at all to the character as it was portrayed by Fogler, nor could I imagine him in many of the situations he found himself in. Better casting of this character could have gone a long way towards making the film a lot more fun.

However, with that said, I actually did enjoy this film. Despite the issues I had with the casting, nearly everyone did a great job in playing their characters. Topher Grace’s portrayal of Matt was particularly good. You really feel like this guy is exactly what his character is supposed to be. He brings out every aspect of his character with his performance, and this is one casting the film got exactly right. Another casting they got right was Chris Pratt as Wendy’s boyfriend Kyle. He came off as being exactly what the character was supposed to be. Rich, privileged, full of himself and a total douche bag without realizing he actually was a douche bag. He brings out the fun in the character without making you hate the character, which would have brought down the tone of the film considerably. This is where the Dan Fogler casting failed. I really didn’t like the character just because of him and the way he played it. Someone else who was better suited to the role could have played it and been really funny and likeable in it, which would have elevated the film to a level of fun that it was striving to achieve, but didn’t quite reach.

All in all though, despite the problems I mentioned, this is a fun film with a good story that can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. It’s a film about learning to let go of the fears that are holding you back, and about finding your dreams in spite of them. Sure there are better comedies out there, but there are a whole lot of them that are far worse. I can’t see anyone really walking away from this film feeling disappointed with it. In fact, it has a lot of fun moments that will keep you entertained throughout. Plus, it has Anna Faris. How could anyone not like a movie that has Anna Faris in it? Ok, I admit, there were two Anna Faris movies I really didn’t like. One was called May, and the other was called Smiley Face. While her performance in each was great, the movies themselves just weren’t good. Hey, you can’t win ’em all, right? She’s definitely great in this film though, and I’m happy to be able to recommend it, albeit with a few reservations. While not as funny as a film like say, Sex Drive, it’s still most definitely a fun ride that will leave you feeling pretty good when it’s over.

This review was done for the blu-ray disc of the film, which includes the following special features. Deleted scenes, a cast get-together, a music boom box with music from the film, and a Take Me Home Tonight music video. It also includes a digital copy of the film.