Take Me Home Tonight (2011)

Directed by Michael Dowse, Written by Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Topher Grace, and Gordon Kaywin, Rated R, 97 minutes.

Not sufficed to be another wall flower, 2011s Take Me Home Tonight aims high, promising the craziest, zaniest, last day of whatever party movie of all time, complete with drugs, alcohol, Michael Bein, and, of course, long monologues about how the main character has wasted his life up until this, the greatest party he has ever been to. Yes, it’s nothing new, but this loosely stitched quilt of the last 25 years of party movies does start strong with an obvious plot that leads to the embarrassment, humiliation, and catharsis we see these movies for. Only problem is, the movie loses momentum early, leaving our characters to awkwardly say goodbye to a night that feels more like small talk than actual conversation.

Topher Grace plays Matt Franklin, a recent MIT graduate with a degree in engineering, a day job at Suncoast Video, and zero ambition. Crushed and alone after a wasted education, Franklin runs into his high school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) at work, and he’s thrust back into the game, making up a fake life as an importer/exporter for Goldman Sachs to impress her. She invites him to a townie party, where he’ll continue the ruse, taking his there for yucks best friend Dan Fogler and twin sister Anna Faris along for the ride on a drug and alcohol fuel night around town.

Grace is a likable leading man. Insecure enough to be relatable, yet sarcastic enough to not be totally pathetic, he strikes an endearing middle ground as guy you can tolerate complaining. His snotty asides, however, occasionally appear confusing, especially when facing sort-of villain Christ Pratt, Farris’ boyfriend and party host. Pratt is energetic on screen, yet his character fails to achieve the cocky malice the film so desperately needs, like that guy from Karate Kid. Pratt’s likable when we should despise him, and because we have no real villain, Franklin’s problems remain largely internalized, only to be revealed in awkward confessions to his dream girl. His attacks on Pratt are wasted breath, because these two aren’t in competition, and as such Grace’s quest drags, leaving him to wander in between spurts of lunacy from Fogler, who yells a lot.

Like the party itself, Take Me Home Tonight is a fleeting distraction that fails to engage in a lasting or memorable way. It’s funny in spurts, thanks largely to the commitment to the premise. The party is crazy and concocts new ways to surprise us–an aluminum ball that acts as some proud town tradition comes to mind. But Matt’s journey, thwarted by no villain other than his own psyche, isn’t compelling enough to totally pay attention to.

Grade: C


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