Movie Review: “Take Me Home Tonight”

“Take Me Home Tonight” is a ten-years-too-late comedy. It’s ’80s nostalgia vamped up by people who were too young to have lived through the actual ’80s, but entirely too old to be playing college kids nostalgic for their ’80s high school glory days.

It’s “Hot Tub Time Machine” without the time machine or the hot tub. Or the fun that entailed.

Topher Grace, now a well-preserved 32, is Matt, the recent M.I.T. grad working for Suncoast Video while he tries to decide what to do with his life.

Anna Faris, now 34, is Wendy, Matt’s twin sister, equally directionless also working at Suncoast.

And Dan Fogler, now 34, is Barry, Matt’s burly, boozy loose cannon pal. He skipped college and is regretting it.

Their story? Straight out of the ’90s — the “Can’t Hardly Wait” tale of a guy-who-never-confessed-to-his-high-school-crush.

Teresa Palmer plays Tori, the object of Matt’s crush. At 24, she’s at least the right age to be playing somebody just starting her career and her life.

Through one wild, long night Matt, Barry, Wendy and Tori experience multiple parties, freaky LA party sex, cocaine, grand theft auto and a great, deadly dare. And each, in his own way, has a moment of truth.

Texture is what we look for in our nostalgia pieces and ’80s nostalgia, which was very briefly a big deal in the ’90s, is all about skinny ties, moussed hair, Duran Duran and “Safety Dance” — all delivered in copious quantities here. With a little cocaine on the side.

Life lessons are doled out as well. Matt, who is driving his LA cop dad (Michael Biehn) and his sister nuts with his indecision, must decide to “go for it.” Barry must figure out that he’s on a dead end street and find purpose. Wendy needs to open that envelope from grad school and decide what to do with the boyfriend who just proposed to her at his big Labor Day party.

And Tori? She’s got to decide if this guy with his sports jacket sleeves rolled up is just a poseur, claiming to work at Goldman Sachs, or somebody she should never have ignored in high school.

Grace, who came up with the story idea for this much-delayed (filmed in 2007) comedy, has some very nice scenes pretending to be a currency trader. He went to M.I.T., remember? He can fake the math. There’s a good father-son moment, too. “Take a shot at something, son!”

“I don’t even know where to aim.”

It’s a shame Grace didn’t get this up and running right after “That ’70s Show” ended. Even taking into account how long it sat on the shelf, hampered by a ratings controversy, he and those he surrounded himself with are a bit too long in the tooth to make this work.

Faris, not playing the dumb blond for once, finds the confusion and pathos in Wendy, who doesn’t want to hurt the guy who wants to tie her down for life. If only she were a convincing 20something.

Fogler seems doomed to play the flailing fat frat boy, but we’ve seen everything Barry does here done before and done better. The parties director Michael Dowse stages are retreads of everything from “Animal House” to name-any-other-’80s-or-’90s youth comedy.

The lesson of these movies are all the same, that you can go back, you can make sure that you don’t live the rest of your life bitter that you didn’t “go for it.”  But you can’t go back, no matter how many Hollywood agents tell you “You could still pass for 22, sure!”

Cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Teresa Palmer, Dan Fogler

Director: Michael Dowse

Running time: 1:37

Rating: R, for language, sexual content and drug use.

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