Topher Grace made his name as loveable underdog Eric Forman in That 70s Show. Since finishing with the series, he has struggled to stamp his authority on Hollywood. He was horribly miscast as Venom in the critically panned third instalment of the Spider-Man franchise, he then starred in some terrible teen romantic comedies before most recently starring in Robert Rodriguez’ Predators. His latest outing, Take Me Home Tonight, sees him as lead star and part-producer, no doubt hoping for a sleeper hit to get his career back on track.
Set in the late 1980s, the film follows Matt Franklin (Grace) as an MIT graduate, stuck in a job at a dead-end video shop by choice because he is too afraid to take a risk with his life. He gets invited to a high school reunion party and lies about working for Goldman-Sachs in order to impress hi s former crush Tori Fredriking (the Kristen Stewart look-a-like Teresa Palmer). His best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and sister Wendy (Anna Faris) come along for the ride and learn important life lessons themselves.
The setup is so formulaic that you can see all the plot strands forming and running their course from the outset. Everyone must have a moment of success, followed by a moment of despair, followed by a revelation and a resolution of their major flaw. It’s as by-the-numbers as coming-of-age teen comedy dramas get. The fact that it’s set in the 1980s is a nice touch and leaves plenty of room for a classic playlist from that era, which compliments the action very well.
One of the main problems is the films lack of originality, and sadly a similar story was already told in the far superior Easy A and to a lesser extent Adventureland, which shared the same setting. Unlike that, Take Me Home Tonight has a weak supporting cast that delve too quickly into caricatures. It retains a certain level of charm and sweetness, and Grace himself is well cast and is probably the funniest person in the film.
Like the John Hughes films it so obviously tries to be, there is a level of nostalgic sweetness to Take Me Home Tonight that is tough to ignore, especially during the stronger moments later in the film. Unfortunately, for a comedy it just is no where near funny enough to be considered good. On paper it’s a great choice for Topher Grace’s career, in reality it’s another step on the road to obscurity, let’s hope he has a film that launches the undoubtedly funny actor into the mainstream once again.