Take Me Home Tonight deftly interweaves the genres of raucous house party movie and coming-of-age melodrama. With an end product that is both comfortably familiar and unmistakably fresh at the same time.
The movie is something of a contradiction. It
looks and feels as though it could have been made in the '80s, yet it's
entirely too aware of its own idiosyncrasies to have been made before now. The meta-reverent way in which all-too-familiar characters and all-too-familiar
scenarios are dissected and given new life could have only been done in
This is a period piece made by people who knew the period first hand.
As evidence of the intimacy between the filmmakers and their material, co-writer and star Topher Grace has said that he and his fellow writers put together the soundtrack before fleshing out the film. Not a bad strategy when focusing on a decade so specifically defined by its music.
After the choice tunes were agreed on, the premise must have come naturally.
It's the end of the summer in 1988. Matt Franklin (Grace), a recent graduate of MIT, spins his wheels working at a Suncoast Video and laments the facts that he never pursued his high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer). Matt still lives at home and appears to be going exactly nowhere.
When Tori shows up at the video store with an invitation to an epic house party, Matt jumps at the opportunity to reconnect with his old flame and party away all his doubts about what he hasn't accomplished.
Along for the ride are several house party movie standards. There's the wild party animal spewing one liners as he gets progressively more and more intoxicated (Dan Fogler). There's the rich, dumb jock who just wants everyone to have a good time (Chris Pratt). Then there are the peripheral characters, a menagerie of '80s caricatures.
Yet each of these individuals is portrayed with more care than one would expect from a movie of this ilk. Touching, character driven melodramas were just as common as raucous comedies in the '80s, see The Big Chill, but rarely (if ever) have the two overlapped so seamlessly.
The story is also given more depth by the introduction of a second party, which is significantly more adult in nature than the previous one. At this point the audience gets the fullest sense of the ether in which the principal characters exist: They're too old to still be satisfied by those once-grand trappings of youth, but they're still not quite old enough to really settle down and accept the burdens of adulthood.
This could be a movie about any generation, it just happens to be about a generation of individuals who wore parachute pants, used copious amounts of hairspray and said the word radical a lot.
Not exactly a throwback, but also not quite completely novel, Take Me Home Tonight is a grounded tale of coming to terms with lost youth that is pretty darn fun to watch.