Take Me Home Tonight 

Another insult on the minds of myriad moviegoers

click to enlarge Topher Grace (left): 'Let's drive this thing straight off a cliff.'
  • Topher Grace (left): 'Let's drive this thing straight off a cliff.'

Take Me Home Tonight

GRADE: D

Nostalgia is tricky because it's generally fun for those whose memories are hazy, or even for those who never lived through the actual moment. This may explain the mirthless spectacle of Take Me Home Tonight, an alleged "comedy" set in 1988, though not in an actual representation of the fading Reagan era, but of a totally radical '80s movie reality, or, more specifically, in a copy of other nostalgic movies about the decade. The result is a fax of a Xerox, a pale imitation of a form featuring a cast of early thirtysomethings playing new college grads. Adding to the disconnected time loop, this stinker was shot a few years ago, then lingered on the shelf while producers endlessly tinkered with it. Oddly, star Topher Grace, who made his name playing a me-decade teen on That 70's Show, gets a story credit here, which apparently means he caught some early John Cusack on TBS one night and created a collage of plot points.

Grace plays Matt, an M.I.T. student floundering back home in Los Angeles, where he's still working at the Suncoast video store in the mall. Hey, remember VHS tapes? For that matter, remember video stores? Matt's a little aimless, but he's good-looking and bright, which makes it a mystery why he's saddled with a walking train wreck of a best friend, Barry, played by the desperately unfunny Dan Fogler, a fourth-rate Jack Black clone who never met a line reading he couldn't blow by screaming, twitching or screeching; he's a relentless ball of dire manic energy.

The plot's basically the big party scene — essential to any '80s comedy flick — and it eats much of the running time. Desperate to rouse himself out of loserdom, nice guy Matt views a night's kegger as his last shot at redemption, and a chance to finally move in on his massive high school crush, a pretty blond cipher played by Teresa Palmer. His big plan to impress her involves lying about his employment, stealing a Mercedes, and then rolling downhill in a giant ball of scrap metal.

Various able supporting players traipse through, including Lucy Punch, Michael Ian Black and Anna Farris, though Demetri Martin is the only real standout, providing hilarious relief when he strays from the dreadful script. Take Me Home Tonight sports a soundtrack straight from your corner bar's '80s night, and a motley crew of extras playing dress-up as punks, burnouts, wannabes, preps and dweebs, but it's an even more plastic, hollow and underwhelming experience than actually living through 1988.

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