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Take Me Home Tonight: Blu-ray + Digital Copy Review

Take Me Home Tonight (2011) movie poster Take Me Home Tonight

Theatrical Release: March 4, 2011 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Michael Dowse / Writers: Jeff Filgo, Jackie Filgo (screenplay); Topher Grace, Gordon Kaywin (story)

Cast: Topher Grace (Matt Franklin), Anna Faris (Wendy Franklin), Dan Fogler (Barry Nathan), Teresa Palmer (Tori Frederking), Chris Pratt (Kyle Masterson), Michael Biehn (Bill Franklin), Jeanie Hackett (Libby Franklin), Lucy Punch (Shelly), Michelle Trachtenberg (Ashley), Demetri Martin (Carlos), Michael Ian Black (Pete Bering), Bob Odenkirk (Mike), Angie Everhart (Trish Anderson), Jay Jablonski (Benji), Edwin Hodge (Bryce), Candace Kroslak (Ally), Nathalie Kelley (Beth), Wade Allain-Marcus (Broder), Robert Hoffman (Tyler "Dance Machine" Jones), Ryan Bittle (Rick Herrington), Bruce Nelson (Officer Frank Johnson), Seth Gabel (Brent Tufford), James Sharpe (Steven), Erin Eisenhower (Tyler's Girlfriend), Kimberly Dearing (Betsy), Clement Von Franckenstein (Frances Triebverbrecher), Ginnifer Goodwin (Banky)

Buy Take Me Home Tonight from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital Copy • DVD

Topher Grace spent seven seasons playing a teenager of the late-1970s on "That '70s Show." Since then, he's matured, moving on to young adulthood, feature films, and the 1980s.

Take Me Home Tonight doesn't give an exact date, but it appears to be set around Labor Day 1988. Matt Franklin (Grace) has recently graduated from MIT, but that prestigious higher education hasn't led him to bigger and better things. He works at a Suncoast video shop in a Los Angeles mall and still lives with his parents (James Cameron favorite Michael Biehn, Jeanie Hackett), who are eager for him to move up in the world.
Secretly, Matt's twin sister and fellow alum Wendy (Anna Faris) has made plans to advance herself, applying to grad school at Cambridge. She can't bring herself to open the letter that will tell her if she's accepted or rejected.

While the siblings are looking ahead, they're also looking back, to their high school years. Wendy's boyfriend Kyle (Chris Pratt, "Parks & Recreation") is hosting his annual house party and much of the old gang from Shermer High (one of the only John Hughes nods) is planning to attend. That includes Matt, after he learns his secret high school (and still) crush Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer) will be there. Running into her at his work, Matt tries to play things cool and passes himself off as an investment banker like her. Also along for the ride is Matt's best friend, Barry (Dan Fogler), who opted for employment over college. On the one day the film takes place, Barry quits his job as a car salesman, flipping his boss off and storming out. To help Matt look like a successful banker, Barry decides to take a Mercedes convertible off the lot of his former workplace. In the car's glove compartment, he finds a bag of cocaine.

Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) reconnects with Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), the high school crush he's never asked out or gotten over, in front of a "Back to the Future" poster and dozens of 1980s VHS cassettes at the Suncoast where he's pretending he doesn't work.

Those are the two airs of the film, which is directed by Michael Dowse (It's All Gone Pete Tong).
Its wild side involves recklessness and misjudgment: stealing a car, trying coke, and cutting loose. The more sensitive side is about making up for old regrets, coming to terms with adulthood, figuring out what you want, and going for it. The opposite tones are surprisingly quite at ease with one another. They mesh in a way that reflects the sensibilities of 1980s cinema. That, of course, is a top priority for a movie dedicated to celebrating the decade. Hardly an iconic fashion or one-hit wonder goes unused here.

The soundtrack seizes almost every opportunity to showcase music that was popular among young people in the '80s and remains fairly appealing today. For the full list, see the bottom of this review, but highlights include Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf", Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes", and Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." I have to question whether guys who look like Topher Grace and Don Fogler would have had their fingers on the pulse of N.W.A. enough to know all the words to "Straight Outta Compton" weeks after it was released. Oddly, the Eddie Money song from which the title is taken is absent in the film itself (but it's ubiquitous on the Blu-ray).

Take Me Home Tonight looks like a modern film (utilizing the wider 2.40:1 aspect ratio as almost all of today's movies do), but it feels like an '80s one. Some of the slang may sound a little forced or false, but on the whole, the movie seems authentic (excusing a premature reference to Rain Man). Its nostalgia is neither saccharine nor satirical. The screenplay by "That '70s Show" writers/producers Jeff and Jackie Filgo exudes respect and experience. It doesn't play like an extended sitcom or resemble the short-lived spin-off "That '80s Show."

The comedy finds a pretty good balance of humor and heart, stumbling only occasionally on each front. The boorish Barry is introduced with a great sight gag, but he begins to wear out his welcome shortly after that, handling the drug and sex comedy too raunchy (and weak) for shy, preppy Matt. Matt's measured pursuit of Tori plays sweetly, although his lie is belabored (and the eight to ten years the other leads have on Palmer are somewhat glaring). Even the crossroads facing Wendy and Kyle, a subplot that could have been cut without great effect on the film, shows some thought and maturity, the Filgos keeping Pratt's prat on the border of douchiness (as exemplified by the popped collar on his polo shirt) but clinging to redemption potential.

Just-engaged, Wendy and Kyle (now real-life spouses Anna Faris and Chris Pratt) discuss their shared future. Barry (Dan Fogler) and Matt (Topher Grace) have their lapse in automotive judgment met by the law, specifically Matt's cop father.

Those wanting a parade of line-crossing misbehavior will be let down, as will those who frown upon frequent profanity and even the occasional dirty diversion. But Take Me Home Tonight is comfortable as a happy medium between racy free-for-all and innocent farce. It is plenty enjoyable just the way it is.

Topher Grace's career has stalled following his "'70s Show" exit; landing the role of Venom in Spider-Man 3 seemed a certain path to bigger things, but then he disappeared for a few years and is only now resurfacing. Along with boasting his first/only story and executive producer credits, Take Me actually gives us a glimpse of Topher's missing years, as it was filmed all the way back in early 2007, after Spider-Man 3 but before its release. The delay (supposedly over Universal Pictures' discomfort over the depiction of cocaine use) gave the movie time to try out various working titles (among them, Kids in America and Young Americans) and allowed it to become acquirer Relativity Media's third release as a distributor. Actually, this became Relativity's third flop as well; the studio's fourth release, Limitless, opening two weeks later, would prove to be their first hit.

Take Me Home Tonight was actually quite disastrous at the box office; its pitiful $3.5 million opening weekend ranks as the 36th worst on record for an over 2,000-theater release. The movie didn't recover either, suffering a steep 63% drop on weekend #2 and closing shy of the $7 M mark domestically (one of just three worldwide markets to release this to date). For a movie that took four years to release, performed that terribly with audiences, and only scored a lowly 28% on the Rotten Tomatometer, I'm amazed that this is not only watchable but something that I suspect will surprise many viewers in a good way.

Relativity's video partner, Fox takes it home on Tuesday on DVD and in this review's subject, a 2-disc Blu-ray + Digital Copy combo.

Take Me Home Tonight Blu-ray + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Two single-sided discs (BD-50 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Take Me Home Tonight looks rad enough on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation doesn't quite leap of the screen, but it remains largely clean and adequately detailed. There is some slight grain, perhaps in an effort to give the movie somewhat of a 1980s comedy look. Other than that, the picture is fine without wowing to the degree that many of today's movies do (maybe 2007 movies are a more appropriate comparison). A 5.1 DTS-HD master audio track is our only option and it too is good, not great. The '80s tunes are the primary aural attraction and they are well presented, avoiding the dynamic peaks few probably appreciate. The crisp, clear dialogue is backed by a moderate amount of atmosphere. In short, this isn't a demo-worthy disc, but only the most hardcore of A/V-philes might muster some discontent about that.

Unheard in the film itself, Bob Odenkirk appears before '80s celebrity headshots to fire Barry in this deleted scene. The cast of "Take Me Home Tonight" reunites for what is possibly the last time on camera, with laughs and brewskys flowing.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's modest collection of extras begins with a group of seven deleted scenes (11:00). There are some brother-sister chats, a couple of moments between Matt and Kyle, a weak scene in which we actually get to hear Bob Odenkirk, and some alternate improvised lines of Demetri Martin's cranky, wheelchair-bound former classmate. Ranging from clumsily expositional to just plain unfunny, these were all deservingly cut.

"Cast Get Together" (8:12) gathers Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, and Chris Pratt for what feels like a reunion/retrospective, having occurred several years after production (after Faris and Pratt wed, and in an unclear point in Grace and Palmer's on and off relationship). The fun, casual black & white group chat is complemented by outtakes, screen tests, movie clips, and candid set footage (including Grace and Faris performing an original song).

The twelve songs featured in the Music Boombox each get a page of information. In this case, Pete Townshend himself seems to have written a note about his E. Cola mix of "Let My Love Open the Door" to someone named Kathy. In one of the rare bonus features you'll want to watch more than once, the "Take Me Home Tonight" stars recreate some of the most iconic moments of popular 1980s cinema in the Atomic Tom's "Don't You Want Me" music video.

"Music Boombox" simply takes you to the scenes from the movie that prominently feature '80s music. It's cool, but the treatment falls short on those in which you also get a whole bunch of dialogue after the song has stopped. Twelve songs are found here: "Video Killed the Radio Star", "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Situation", "Kickstart My Heart", "Straight Outta Compton", "Bette Davis Eyes", "Safety Dance", "Come On Eileen", "Everybody Have Fun Tonight", "Let My Love Open the Door", "Live is Life", and "Don't You Want Me."
You can watch the whole batch in succession with a choppy "Play All" reel (25:53). If you go that way, though, you'll miss out on the paragraph of information on each song. In a nice touch, the menus dedicated to this feature lists the song titles on blank tapes and the controls resemble those on boomboxes.

"Take Me Home Tonight music video" (3:57) is in fact an uncredited video for Atomic Tom's end credits cover of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me." Created for the overdue theatrical release, this finds Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, and Teresa Palmer at a dance party paying costumed homage to an endless number of iconic 1980s movies (and one from 1990). I counted over 30 tributes, the more notable of which include Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Teen Wolf, Say Anything..., Weekend at Bernie's, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, E.T. (via "ALF"), The Terminator (with Michael Biehn cameo), and The Breakfast Club. I'd call this a brilliant, apt piece of marketing, but it seemed to do little for the bottom line. Still, I'm really glad it's preserved here and in hi-def. Too bad it's not joiend by a commentary or behind-the-scenes.

This TV spot uses Topher Grace narration to appeal to audiences. That didn't make March 4, 2011 the "Best. Night. Ever." for young distributor Relativity Media. Appropriately, the Blu-ray menu's design evokes the movie's late-1980s setting.

The film's more conventional advertising is also included here. There is the fine full theatrical trailer (2:28), which uses Eddie Money as the film did not, and two 30-second TV spots that employ a remix of Billy Squier's "The Stroke." I'm a big fan of seeing movies' original trailers and these TV spots are a cherry on top.

The Blu-ray's extras conclude with Fox's formal, detailed digital copy how-to (2:35).
It's a must-see.

The disc opens with a family-oriented Fox digital copy promo followed by trailers for Cedar Rapids and Season of the Witch.

Further correcting the Eddie Money omission, the unfortunately loud and appropriately '80s menu plays a 30-second loop of the titular song over a montage of rowdy clips. Atypical for Fox, the Blu-ray disc neither supports bookmarks, nor resumes playback. Happily, the DVD version seems to have all the same bonus features as this Blu-ray.

In what has practically become the Fox standard, the Blu-ray is accompanied by a digital copy disc, enabling, via DVD-ROM, transfer of the movie in iTunes and Windows Media formats to computers and portable devices. These days, most other studios are favoring DVD/digital copy hybrid discs or both DVD and digital copy discs, the latter a design Fox saves largely for family films.

The two discs take opposite sides of an eco-friendly standard Blu-ray case, with the digital copy disc topped by a sheet containing directions and your serial number.

Looking for a date, Barry (Dan Fogler) winds up with something altogether different... in the film-opening music shop scene that twins Wendy (Anna Faris) and Matt (Topher Grace) and Madonna are there to witness.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You don't need to be fond of the 1980s to enjoy Take Me Home Tonight, but it certainly helps. Though this nostalgic single night comedy will not secure the enduring recognition of American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused, it is quite a bit better the poor reviews, four-year shelving, and public avoidance all suggest. Those qualifiers and low expectations aren't prerequisite to being entertained by this agreeable throwback, which plays like a less depressing, less crude Hot Tub Time Machine, or what I hoped Hot Tub Time Machine would be.

Fox's Blu-ray offers an unremarkably good feature presentation and a valuable handful of bonus features highlighted by the cast reunion and that super fun music video. This may be one of 2011's biggest flops, but I'd also call it one of the year's better comedies so far.

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Blu-ray + Digital Copy / DVD / Soundtrack

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Related Reviews:
New: Rango • The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure • Jackass 3.5 • Arthur (2011) • Dinocroc vs. Supergator
2011 Comedies: No Strings Attached • Hall Pass • Just Go With It • Cedar Rapids • happythankyoumoreplease
Written by Jeff and Jackie Filgo: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Comedies Set in/About the 1980s: Hot Tub Time Machine • Adventureland • Kickin' It Old Skool
1980s Comedies: Back to School • Teen Wolf • Big • Say Anything... • Growing Pains: The Complete Second Season
She's Out of My League • Glory Daze • Easy A • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World • Superbad • 10 Things I Hate About You

The Cast of Take Me Home Tonight:
Topher Grace: Predators | Dan Fogler: Balls of Fury | Michael Biehn: The Terminator
Teresa Palmer: I Am Number Four • The Sorcerer's Apprentice • Bedtime Stories
Anna Faris: Mama's Boy • Yogi Bear • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs | Lucy Punch: Dinner for Schmucks

Take Me Home Tonight Songs List (in order of use): The Buggles - "Video Killed the Radio Star", Duran Duran - "Hungry Like the Wolf", Yaz - "Situation", Felony - "The Fanatic", Missing Persons - "Walking in L.A.", After the Fire - "Der Kommissar", Mφtley Crόe - "Kickstart My Heart", N.W.A. - "Straight Outta Compton", Sly Fox - "Let's Go All the Way", Kim Carnes - "Bette Davis Eyes", Men Without Hats - "Safety Dance", "Oh Sherrie", INXS - "What You Need", Wang Chung - "Everybody Have Fun Tonight", Dexy's Midnight Runners - "Come On Eileen", Greg Kihn - "Jeopardy", Pete Townshend - "Let My Love Open the Door (E. Cola Mix)", Grace Jones - "Warm Leatherette", Freur - "Doot-Doot", "Let My Love Open the Door", Book of Love - "Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)", World Party - "Ship of Fools", Yo La Tengo - "Alrock's Bells", The Three O'Clock - "Jet Fighter", Opus - "Live is Life", Atomic Tom - "Don't You Want Me"

Take Me Home Tonight: Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download MP3s from Amazon.com • Buy CD from Amazon.com • Download from iTunes

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Reviewed July 16, 2011.



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