The mystery of Topher Grace’s film career, and why it isn’t better, continues with Take Me Home Tonight.
Shot in early 2007, the movie stars the genial, talented alum of TV’s That ’70s Show, this time moving forward a decade to headline a beery, coke-y tale set among early 20-somethings looking for love and meaning in various corners of greater Los Angeles.
Grace plays a disillusioned MIT graduate stuck working at a Suncoast Video store in 1988, when cell phones the size of dinosaurs ruled the earth. The comedy echoes one ’80s artifact after another. It has the visual ambience (minus the self-importance) of Less Than Zero. Its romantic wish fulfillment — young Matt yearns for his high school crush, an investment whiz played by Teresa Palmer — is straight out of a John Hughes picture. The modest raunch, if such an oxymoron exists, harkens back to Risky Business. Only a sight gag involving an airbag and some blow takes you by surprise.
Part of the problem here is Dan Fogler, who plays the nice-but-lost hero’s abrasive coke-hound friend.
I’ve seen Fogler on stage and he’s funny — big, often overscaled, but funny. In the movies he’s consistently, flagrantly too much. And he just about murders an already ailing film directed, drably, by Michael Dowse.
Any coming-of-age film takes a huge risk concocting a narrative reliant on a massive lie, a deception that must be maintained until the breaking point. Here, the improbable fib is Matt’s: He tells his crush that he’s really a Goldman Sachs hotshot, to impress her. Then he must maintain the ruse. Fine. But we need better lines than “What am I doing? I’ll never get this girl!” to justify such strenuous complication.
Please take the time to see Adventureland, a great coming-of-age comic romance set in 1987. Especially if you haven’t seen it. Take Me Home Tonight, believe me, you’ve already seen.