Gen-Xers will immediately peg Michael Dowse's limp comedy Take Me Home Tonight as a lame attempt to cash in on nostalgia -- they'll see it as a fourth-rate Wedding Singer. Gen Y will think the same movie is a feeble copy of the current king of movie comedy, Judd Apatow -- they'll see it as a fourth-rate Superbad. The sad part is, they'll all be right.
It's the late '80s, and floundering MIT grad Matt (Topher Grace), unsure what to do with his life, is working at Suncoast Video when his high-school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer), walks into the store. He pretends to be another customer, chats her up, and learns she works for a financial institution -- prompting him to lie and say he works at Goldman Sachs. She invites him to a huge party that night featuring seemingly everyone they ever went to high school with, and he goes along with his engaged twin sister, Wendy (a criminally underutilized Anna Faris) -- whose fiancé is hosting the event -- and his best friend, Barry (Dan Fogler), an obnoxious, horny fat guy who during the course of the night gets his hands on some quality cocaine. Over the next 12 hours, Matt steals a car, tries to win Tori's heart, gets confronted by his cop dad about his future, and hears pretty much every overplayed '80s tune you can think of.
The only person who survives this tired retread of Reagan-era references is comic Demetri Martin as a paraplegic high-school friend of Matt's who's become a financial whiz. He shows up for two scenes, and for those brief minutes the film takes on an actual comic sensibility -- his sharp one-liners cut through the layers of calculated pandering and labored gross-out gags to score the movie's only laughs. Grace and Palmer have chemistry in the few quiet scenes they share -- a car ride where she knows he's staring at her even when she's not looking at him has a gentle playfulness that you wish the rest of the film would emulate. But instead, we get the high-octane antics of Barry, whom Folgler plays in a way that fuses the intensity of both Jonah Hill and Sam Kinison. He's such an unlikable, grating character that we just hope he'll OD early on at the party and we won't have to see him anymore.
If you're aiming for a sweeping generational statement, there are two ways to go. On the one hand, you can try to capture the zeitgeist as it's happening -- think Reality Bites or the classic John Hughes movies. The other choice is to look back a decade or two and try to sum up where we were -- see American Graffiti or Dazed and Confused. Take Me Home Tonight wants to be like a classic Brat Pack flick, but it makes the mistake of playing up to Gen-X nostalgia rather than creating memorable or original characters.