In three or four months when your walking past your local RedBox and you see a DVD titled Take Me Home Tonight, please don’t take its advice. The sin of the film is it stretches what should be a second act of a film into the whole narrative, it’s a film about “one big night” and when characters are aware it’s going to be a “big night” – it kind of takes the fun out of the film.
Topher Grace is Matt; an MIT graduate who works at Suncoast Video at the mall, his twin sister, Wendy is played by Anna Faris gets engaged to a typical polo-wearing jerk whose daddy is buying him a fast food franchise. Dan Fogler, which I think represents most of what is wrong about the film, is a Barry. In the afternoon of this “big/best night ever” he’s fired from his job at a car dealership – he’s loud, obnoxious and after the discovery of cocaine in a car he stole from said dealership, he goes from zero to Charlie Sheen.
Fogler is far from subtle; he’s frequently the obnoxious sidekick’s best friend and evokes the type of white, overweight party boy with a sense of obnoxious entitlement. In real life if I met one his characters I’d probably walk the other way. This is not to say he wasn’t enjoyable as an underdog in Balls of Fury, but remember his obnoxious plastic surgeon in Good Luck Chuck.
Another major flaw is Topher Grace’s Matt, an MIT grad who chooses no path. In some way he’s not as sympathetic as he should be: I understand and relate to a character whose lost in life – Adventureland set in the same era, over a whole summer is one of the best films to be made about this void the New York Times calls “Emerging Adulthood.” This is one of the worst.
After telling a Tori (Teresa Palmer), who he’s had a crush on her since middle school, that he’s got a successful gig in “Asian Takeovers” at Goldman Sachs, he follows through and goes to a party that lasts for what feels like the entire length of Carlos. It’s excruciatingly boring and unfunny – nothing worse than a party you don’t want to be at, but they fall in “love” after exchanging lame dialogue, have sex on a trampoline and then the truth comes out.
The film is set in the 1980’s and was made in 2007, held back from release because the studio was uncomfortable with its drug content. I suspect they consider the film largely to be a train-wreck – there are elements of a fun film here (and hence a good trailer) but this is where a director (in this case, Michael Dowse), as the final arbiter, has to step up and make us care about the characters, or at least give us a good time.
With that said there’s a certain energy that’s missing here, the films from the 80s have inspired a generation of filmmakers not only to reflect but to make the genre their own, from She’s All That to Superbad to Adventureland to Fired Up. All better films without soundtracks nearly as enjoyable as this. There is a problem here and it’s that the film is lazy. Had Will Gluck (Fired Up, Easy A) injected his energy into this lame script, it might have had a chance.
The film was directed by Michael Dowse who right before shooting this made the very enjoyable It’s All Gone Pete Tong, about a DJ who loses his hearing. Since then, he’s made the follow-up to his first film Fubar, Fubar II: Balls to the Wall. I suspect making this film was a frustrating experience and while he might have been the right guy for the job, I sense the levels of studio bureaucracy are responsible in the end for just how inexplicably safe and boring this movie really is. After all, at the time of its production we weren’t in a financial crisis – Goldman Sachs was probably an honorable and “cool” place to work in the boom days. If the film were made now, this would be treated with an American Psycho sense of parody, and that’s what this needs.
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After a recent New York screening of František Vláčil‘s Marketa Lazarová, my friend and fellow critic, Vadim Rizov, tweeted the following response: “Sheep God war men snow church blood swords ‘old crone’ justice grass wtf WTF UNCLE.” He certainly wasn’t alone in such a confused response. Lazarová — now out on Blu-ray via Criterion — is [...]
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