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Review: ‘Take Me Home Tonight’

This One Should Have Stayed on the Shelf

Above: Topher Grace, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler try to recreate the 80s in "Take Me Home Tonight."

I feel it is my civic duty to try and steer people away from "Take Me Home Tonight" (opening March 4 throughout San Diego).

"Take Me Home Tonight" should have the cinematic equivalent of a biohazardous waste warning on it to make sure people stay away and don't get exposed to it. Okay maybe that's too harsh. But this alleged comedy, which sat on the shelf for four years, is so painfully bad that I wanted to flee my seat.

The film is produced by "That 70s Show" star Topher Grace, and he's been promoting the hell out of his film, going to city after city to talk to the press. I was supposed to interview Grace but after seeing the film the only question I had for the producer-star was "What the heck were you thinking dude?" This film sucks and you should have left it on the shelf or better yet burned the negative.

The story is simple enough: nerdy recent college grad is dissatisfied with his life and wants to bed the girl of his high school dreams, and he essentially has one night to do it. Cue the party, the 80s soundtrack, the bad hair and shoulder pads, and you have a film that takes all the trappings of a 80s teen comedy but none of the humor.

You might wonder why this seemingly innocuous little comedy has stirred my wrath. It may be in part that it comes after weeks of having to watch and review numerous mediocre to bad films. So maybe I'm harsher because this was the straw that broke the camel's back. But I also think it's because "Take Me Home Tonight" pretentiously positions itself as a generation defining teen comedy yet it doesn't have an original thought in its ditzy, coked up head. Rather than remaking a 80s film Grace has said that he wanted to make a film that felt like it had actually been made in the 80s.

On IMDb there's this tidbit of info listed for the film under trivia: "Topher Grace revealed that the heavy drug use in the film caused the delayed release. Grace and director Michael Dowse wanted to 'do something that felt like it was literally made in the '80s' and not a parody of that generation. Grace believed it wouldn't be the 80's without heavy cocaine use, so there was 'real hesitation' on part of the studios. The film ended up sitting on the shelf until Ron Howard and Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment came to the rescue. According to Grace, they even ended up 'putting stuff back' in the film, rather than having to cut."

Okay. Where to start? First of all, they wanted to make something "literally made in the 80s" and "not a parody." Well they sort of succeeded. It's not a parody of the 80s kids and their movies it's an insult to them. As for the drug use? Well any excuse to keep this film from hitting theaters would be a good one. Of course the only real reason you need is that it fails on so many levels that the filmmakers must have been doing drugs themselves if they thought they had a hit on their hands. And if Howard and Grazer extended this film by even a millisecond by adding stuff back, then they should be forced to watch this movie on a continuous loop with their eyes pried open like Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange."

Grace wanted to create a John Hughes film for a new generation but there is nothing worse than setting out with an agenda, especially when you are trying to make a comedy. Plus, you cannot engineer a teen cult hit. Those things have to occur naturally and the teens have to discover the film for themselves, it can't be crammed down their throats.

Anna Faris in "Take Me Home Tonight."

Relativity Media Works

Above: Anna Faris in "Take Me Home Tonight."

"Take Me Home Tonight" also has the abrasively annoying Dan Fogler channeling Sam Kinison and/or Bobcat Goldthwait. Whenever Fogler's sidekick buddy comes on screen you want to bolt because his performance is like listening to nails on a chalkboard in surround sound. Teresa Palmer (who is much more enjoyable in "I Am Number Four") is cute but empty as the dream girl; Anna Faris tries to be more than the usual bimbo as the smart sister with dumb plans; Grace tries way too hard to be John Hughes teen hero for a new generation; and Michael Biehn is completely wasted as Grace's cop dad.

I'll give props to the film for at least going for the R-rating but that's about the only nice thing I have to say. Otherwise the film is a failure. The characters are poorly drawn and behave in ways that make no sense at all. This is especially true of Faris' character who is presented to us as smart and yet she's about to marry the dumb jock who abuses her brother. It just makes no sense that they would have ever even gotten together except that the filmmakers need to have her in a relationship with the big dumb jock so they can use his big dumb house as the home base for the film.

"Take Me Home Tonight" (rated R for language, sexual content and drug use) didn't even have the Eddie Money song of the film's title in it (although I have to qualify that by saying the print I saw was not the final version of the film). So that problem is a simple enough thing for them to have possibly fixed. But everything else that's wrong with this film could only be corrected by leveling the film and starting from scratch.

Companion viewing: "Say Anything," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Superbad"

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