Take Me Home Tonight: Michael Dowse Directs Topher Grace

Do we need another feature about the alienation faced by youngsters who are lost and bewildered in their post-college phase?

If “Take Me Home Tonight,” the tiresome, retro feature, sounds like it revisits the overworked turf of “The Graduate” and countless John Hughes films of the 1980s, it should.

There is not a single new idea in the saga, or a fresh look at this crucial life phase in “Take Me Home Tonight,” written by director Michael Dowse and his partners Jackie Filgo and Jeff Filgo, from a story by Topher Grace (the star of the film) and Gordon Kaywin.

Singly and jointly, this team is responsible for such big-screen and small-screen fare as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “That ’70s Show,” “Happy Hour,” “It’s All Gone Pete Tong,” and “Fubar.”

Add to it a leading lady, Teresa Palmer, who is not particularly charming, and you’ve got a tedious, irritating film that suffers from repetition of ideas, gigs, and lines.

Early on, the same joke is repeated three or four times by a couple about to get engaged and married.  The jokey line is intended to be repeated, but that doesn’t make it funnier or entertaining to listen to.

The filmmakers must have realized they are reworking an overly familiar genre for they have decided to set their tale in the late 1980s.  And for a while, you get distracted by the era’s kitsch fashion, the retro look, the faux pas, the polo shirts for the guys, the lurid dresses for the girls, the garish colors, the wild pool parties.

The gifted actor Topher Grace plays Matt Franklin, a recent MIT grad who’s expected to go places.  Social pressures from culture, family (and from himself) demand that he should be working for a prestigious, Fortune 500 firm, that he should climb up quickly up the socio-economic and reap the rewards of being a young, white, educated, handsome male—the term Yuppie was invented for guys like Matt.

But instead, the directionless 23-year-old confounds family and friends by taking a part-time job behind the counter of a video store at the Sherman Oaks Galleria.

Was it a rational decision? Did he have a choice?  No matter, his job has severely damaging effects on his ego and public identity, to the point where he simply lies, fabricating a new, more glamorous existence, and faking an upbeat, happy state of mind.

Turning point occurs, when Matt’s silent and passive protest against maturity is shaken by his unrequited high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), when the girl walks into the store.

Later on, when Tori invites him to a big, splashy end-of-summer party, Matt thinks he finally might have a chance with the girl of his dreams (read get laid).  But his efforts to woo and bed Tori prove longer and harder than he had anticipated. Which might explain the film’s excessive running time.

Along the way, taking breaks from courting Tori, Matt socializes with his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris), a cynical girl who seems to have the few witty lines in the script, and his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler), a sympathetic if harmless lad.

The long journey into the night (and the next day) proves interminable for Matt–as well as for us viewers.  Indeed, the tale is not only dragging, but all the ‘”events” have been seen before, in better movies. Need I mention them?  Stealing a car, a marriage proposal that goes awry, no-holds-barred dance-off, getting drunk, etc.

Previously, helmer Michael Dowse has made two disappointing features (“It’s All Gone Pete Tong” and “Fubar”), and the latest effort doesn’t show any substantial improvement in his directorial skills.

“Take Me Home Tonight,” which also suffers from a too literal, borderline banal title, is meant to be a raunchy, romantic, unforgettable, and ultimately touching romp. But, instead, the movie increasingly gets more awkward and grating, and by the end, you’re simply relieved that the experience is over.

Predictably, the soundtrack is chockfull of popular rock and hip-hop tunes.