John Hughes made some of the best teen movies of the 80s. His work is often imitated but rarely equalled (although credit must go to the recent Easy A for being a film worthy of its roots). And so we come to Take Me Home Tonight, a teen movie set in the 80s which seems to have all the trappings of Hughes’ oeuvre but without any of his sharply observed wit or humour.
John Hughes made some of the best teen movies of the
80s. His work is often imitated
but rarely equalled (although credit must go to the recent Easy A for being a film worthy of its roots). And so we come to Take Me Home
Tonight, a teen movie set in the 80s which
seems to have all the trappings of Hughes’ oeuvre but without any of his
sharply observed wit or humour.
Aimless MIT graduate Matt Franklin, instead of getting a job
in engineering like his dad wants, now works in his local video store. He’s
still obsessed with his high school sweetheart Tori (Teresa Palmer) and so his
heart leaps when she’s seen browsing the racks. Desperate not to seem like a loser, he invents a wild story
about working for Goldman Sachs before arranging to meet her at the annual party
of his twin sister’s boyfriend.
He’s accompanied by irresponsible loud mouth Barry (Dan
Fogler), recently fired from his job at the local car dealership. Realising that he’ll need a ride if
Matt’s going to keep up the ruse, the disgruntled Barry steals a car off the
lot only to find cocaine in the glove compartment and go off on a drug-addled
Predictably, Matt can’t keep his secret for long and as his
lies deepen, so does the cost of Tori finding out the truth.
There’s no reason why Take Me Home Tonight should be set in the 80s apart from the references
to banking and that graduates were actually employable back then. Beyond that, it’s seems like a limp
excuse to use Motley Crue, Duran Duran and Men Without Hats in the soundtrack
and dress everyone in shoulder pads and big hair.
Topher Grace’s understated humour is a welcome contrast to
Dan Fogler constant state of mania and if (heaven forbid) anyone were to remake
the Hughes’ classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, he wouldn’t be out of place in the title role. But likability isn’t enough to carry a
comedy and the lines that he and his co-stars are given are so inane that
they’re reduced to perfectly coiffed automatons designed with no other purpose
than to fire out jokes at the end of every sentence.
Dan Fogler is rapidly carving a niche out for himself
occupied by the much funnier likes of Chris Farley or John Candy before him –
that of the humorous anarchic fat man. But the scrapes that he gets himself
into – getting jacked up on cocaine and challenging another partygoer to a
dance off; having sex in the bathroom with a predatory nymphomaniac cougar, are
desperate pleas for attention which aren’t funny.
After failing to engage with its predictable plot, Take
Me Home Tonight doesn’t know how to
end. Having screwing up his
chances of a relationship with Tori, Matt decides that the best way to get her
back would be to ride in a gigantic metal ball mounted in the back of a pickup
truck. This is part of coming of
age ritual in which participants are dared to sit in the sphere and be rolled
down a hill overlooking a perilous part of Los Angeles canyon, risking life and
limb for the respect of their peers.
Naturally, Matt boards the ball and survives the ride and
Tori loves him for it – a humungous cop out with the only possible conclusion
of “all your problems can be solved if you take needlessly pointless risks”. Ironically risks are what Take
Me Home Tonight could do with as it’s an
amiable but tepid slice of nostalgia that destined for life on the DVD budget