Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer star in "Take Me Home Tonight." (Ron Batzdorff / Relevativity…)
In "Take Me Home Tonight," Topher Grace is completely out of place — and I mean in the actual movie, not just as the directionless MIT-grad working at a video store and living at home while he figures life out.
Grace, with an appealing, self-deprecating charm and good comic timing, always seemed the most likely to succeed out of the graduating class of "That '70s Show," the Fox sitcom that spawned Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher among others. It hasn't turned out that way, at least not yet.
The only person who's got it worse than Grace here is Matt, his character. If the video store gig wasn't bad enough, his romantic prospects are nonexistent. He's still harboring a crush on the girl he spent "seven minutes in heaven" with — and did nothing — when they were kids. The crush (Teresa Palmer) turns up, beautiful still and now a rising commodities trader. Matt's friends and family urge him to reconnect, including sister Wendy (Anna Faris) and his BFF Barry (Dan Fogler).
Now what better way to woo a young hot professional type and turn a floundering life around than a Labor Day weekend booze-fest. Chris Pratt shows up as our blowout party host, head of humiliation and Wendy's unlikely intended — she's smart, he's not. Meanwhile, Fogler is in charge of general mayhem and most of the drug intake, though he also delivers the most laughs.
Director Michael Dowse seems to specialize in beer as much as anything else in his films. That tradition began with the headbanging brawl of his first feature, "Fubar" in 2002; its sequel, "Fubar: Balls to the Wall," heads to video next month. Marginally better was his 2004 deaf-DJ biopic, "It's All Gone Pete Tong," though its star, British comic Paul Kaye, did most of the heavy lifting.
"Take Me Home" has been cooling its heels on the shelf for a while. It hasn't been helped by the delay. In a Netflix and Redbox world, the video store plot line feels dated from the opening. Even the whole smart-slacker-looking-for-himself genre is in need of freshening. It is telling that the biggest laugh comes when the well-endowed chick's top comes off and we don't see her assets.
There are other issues too. Whenever the script, by married writers Jackie and Jeff Filgo ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and "That '70s Show") goes limp, which is a lot, the director turns to music. Usually music comes as a relief in movies like this, as in, at least there's that great cover of the Stones.... But not here. It only signals we're heading into another tedious interlude filled with tight shots of dancing crowds.
Overall "Take Me Home Tonight" represents a lateral move at best for its 24-hour party people, a step back at worst, and not worth your time either way.