“Her hair is hollow gold,” sings rocker Kim Carnes as the camera alternates in slow motion between a girl who matches the description perfectly and a boy who can’t look away. “She’s got Bette Davis eyes.”
Take Me Home Tonight
At Quality 16 and Rave
The scene is a post-college Labor Day party in California in the late ’80s. The girl with the Bette Davis eyes making the grand party entrance is Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). The boy who can’t stop drooling is Matt Franklin (Topher Grace, TV’s “That 70’s Show”).
Rather than putting his engineering degree to good use upon his graduation from MIT, Matt decides to move back in with his parents to get a job at the local video rental store. He does this largely because he simply can’t think of anything else to do — that is, until his high school crush, Tori, shows up at his store and invites him to a party at wild child Kyle Masterson’s, the boyfriend of Matt’s twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris, “The House Bunny”).
With stolen vehicles; a voyeuristic bathroom sex scene; a ride in a gigantic, rolling metallic ball of death; Michelle Trachtenberg (TV’s “Gossip Girl”) as a Goth stoner with a licking fetish; hysterical cameos by comedian Demitri Martin and a whole lot of hairspray and coke, “Take Me Home Tonight” is exactly what it promises to be: a lot of fun with not a lot of substance.
But the film’s main problem is that it lacks cohesion. Each storyline seems cut from a completely different cloth, resulting in a hodgepodge of mini-plots that don’t quite mesh. For instance, Matt’s nerdy-guy-gets-the-girl storyline feels right out of a John Hughes movie, but Wendy’s struggles with engagement and career aspirations feel more like a drama, and best friend Barry’s (Dan Fogler, “Kung Fu Panda”) coked-up misadventures seem like they belong more in the “The Hangover.” Not to mention that the post-graduate crisis that every character is going through is reminiscent of “The Graduate.”
This fragmentation makes the movie come across as somewhat schizophrenic. Audiences will become distracted trying to figure out what kind of movie they’re watching when it switches between emotional scenes of Wendy crying in a bathroom and Barry having a dance-off in front of a crowd. It’s forgivable for a movie to try and imitate other films — sometimes it even works to the movie’s advantage. Problems arise, though, when it can’t decide which movie it’s imitating.
“Take Me Home Tonight” also can’t decide what to do with its real talents — Anna Faris and Demitri Martin. Martin only makes a few appearances, and Faris is stuck in a dramatic role that doesn’t seem believable because it doesn’t play to her comedic strengths. This leaves the majority of the focus to Grace and Fogler, whose characters come across as more annoying than funny.
Still, the film does have some saving graces, most notably the stellar soundtrack and over-the-top ’80s fashion. But though its post-graduate message that nothing is as together as it appears is well intentioned, this message is similarly mirrored in the film’s own inability to choose a focus.