Film Review: The Emoji Movie (dir by Tony Leondis)


The Emoji Movie is basically Inside Out, except instead of taking place inside of an awkward teen’s head, it takes place inside of an awkward teen’s phone.  Instead of sharing a universal story about the pain of growing up, it shares a universal story about the pain of having too many lame apps on your phone.  Instead of featuring a melancholy voice performance by Richard Kind as a forgotten toy, it features an annoying voice performance from James Corden as a forgotten emoji.  Instead of being really wise, funny, and sad, the Emoji Movie is dumb, stupid, and idiotic.  Otherwise, it’s just like Inside Out.

Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) is a Meh Emoji.  He lives in Textopolis.  His job is to look like he’s always meh but instead, he’s always full of emotion and positivity.  His boss, Smiler (Maya Rudolph), says that Gene must be a malfunction and therefore, he has to be deleted.  Gene says, “No, I must discover who I actually am!”  With the help of the forgotten hand emoji, Hi-5 (that would be James Corden), Gene flees from app to app.  (It’s kinda like The Lego Movie but not funny, touching, or clever.)  They track down a hacker named Jailbreak (Anna Faris) and, at one point, they’re all rescued by a blue bird that comes flying over from the Twitter app.  They’re all chased by a bunch of bots and I have to admit that I liked the bots just because they were trying to destroy Gene and Hi-5.  Anything that would have ended James Corden’s lameass Ricky Gervais imitation would have been fine with me.

Nobody (or, at the very least, nobody who writes for this site) is as enthusiastic a capitalist as I am but the naked commercialism of The Emoji Movie really tested my patience.  Essentially, it’s just an 86-minute advertisement with a vapid “Be yourself!” message tacked on.  (If The Emoji Movie was sincere in its message of individuality, it wouldn’t celebrate the idea of people communicating exclusively in emoji.)  Early on, when Gene and Hi-5 escaped into Candy Crush, I rolled my eyes.  Later on, when an awed Gene said, “This is Spotify?”, I nearly threw a shoe at the TV.

(I did enjoy the scene where the Just Dance app got deleted, just because the dancer — who was voiced by Christina Aguilera — let out a terrifying scream as the app collapsed around her.  I’ve always imagined that’s what happens whenever I delete anything.)

Usually, I try to force myself to come up with at least 500 words for every review that I write but the really does seem to be more effort than this movie deserves.  (I was actually tempted to write this review exclusive in emoji but then I realized I was just be playing the movie’s game.)  I will say this: children will like The Emoji Movie because children are stupid.  Ask them again in five years and this will be their response:


Film Review: Keanu (dir by Peter Atencio)






Greetings, fellow lovers of movies and cats!  So, Jeff and I just saw the new comedy, Keanu.  It’s the first film to star the quickly-becoming legendary comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele and it’s full of the type of humor that made their Comedy Central show, Key & Peele, such a success.  Perhaps even more importantly, the film stars an amazingly adorable little kitten!

You’ve seen the trailer, right?  You know how, when Peele first holds up his new kitten, Key immediately starts laughing and says, “Oh my God, that’s the cutest cat I’ve ever seen in my life!?”  Well, he’s not lying.  While I don’t think any cat is cuter than that one that I live with, Keanu the Kitten is definitely the cutest cat that I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Add to that, this kitten can act!  When this kitten stares, you truly believe that he’s listening to the dialogue being exchanged.  When he runs through a gunfight while bullets fly around him, you truly believe that this kitten is running for his life and you breathe a sigh of relief when he survives.  When he meows, your heart melts with each squeaky sound.  This is one amazingly talented kitten!

And it’s not surprising the everyone in the film wants Keanu.  The 17th Street Blips (led by Method Man and created as the result of a merger between the Bloods and the Crips) not only want Keanu but they want to rename him New Jack as well.  Their rival (played by Luis Guzman) wants Keanu and plans to rename him Eglesias.  Two mysterious assassins — the much feared, very sadistic, and always silent Allentown Boys — want Keanu too.  Since they don’t speak, they never say what they want to name him but it would probably be something cool.

And what really makes the film work is that none of them have a reason for wanting Keanu beyond the fact that he is literally the cutest kitten in Los Angeles.  This film is full of dangerous and violent people but all of them love this cat.  Everyone wants Keanu.

Well, I should say that everyone wants Keanu except for Anna Faris, who plays herself.  All Anna Faris wants is a chance to do the latest designer drug, Holy Shit.  (“It’s like smoking crack with God!” Method Man explains.)  It’s probably a good thing that Anna Faris doesn’t want a cat because, as this movie reveals, she also has a potentially dangerous fascination with sharp swords and playing truth or dare.

Of course, Keanu technically belongs to Rell (Jordan Peele).  They say that cats chose their owners and Keanu definitely does that when he shows up outside of Rell’s house.  Rell has just been dumped by his girlfriend and existence has no meaning for him.  But once Keanu shows up, Rell again learns to embrace life.  He spends two weeks taking pictures of Keanu reenacting scenes from classic movies.  But when the 17th Street Blips break into his house, mistakenly thinking that Rell has a supply of Holy Shit, they take Keanu for themselves.

Rell and his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) team up to track down and retrieve Keanu from the Blips but there’s a problem.  Rell may brag about growing up in New York and Clarence may have stories about his childhood on the streets of Detroit but both of them are painfully out-of-place in the violent world of Blips and Anna Faris.  (Clarence is obsessed with George Michael while Rell “sounds like John Ritter all the time.”)  Fortunately, Rell and Clarence happen to look exactly like the Allentown Boys.  Method Man makes a deal with them.  If Rell and Clarence — who are now going by the names TekTonic and Sharktank — train the Blips then he will give them Keanu.

(Method Man’s character is actually named Cheddar.  Jeff just pointed out to me that Method Man previously played a character named Cheese on The Wire.)

While Rell struggles to fit in with the Blips, the nominally more straight-laced Clarence (who, unlike Rell, doesn’t even smoke weed) is soon having the time of his life.  It turns out that Clarence specializes in corporate team building and he’s excited to introduce these techniques to Blips.  (During one shootout, Clarence proudly announces, “They’re communicating!”)

Admittedly, Keanu is an uneven film.  It’s essentially a collection skits and some of them are funnier than others.  However, Key and Peele both bring so much commitment to bringing this insane story to life that they literally carry the audience over the occasional rough spot.  It may not be perfect but it’s a film that announces that, whether on TV or in the movies, Key & Peele are a comedic force to be reckoned with.

Plus, that kitten is so damn cute!

(And, in case you were wondering, Keanu Reeves does make an appearance of sorts.)

This film is 90 minutes of laughter and that’s certainly something that we all need right now!  See Keanu!

(Since you’ve probably already seen the trailer for Keanuhere it is, if you haven’t — let’s close this review with some exclusive audition footage.)

Is It Too Late To Hate On Movie 43?

Originally,  I wasn’t planning on ever seeing Movie 43.

Remember Movie 43?  That’s the comedy with the huge ensemble cast that came out in January and stayed in theaters for about a week.  The trailers looked terrible, the commercials looked terrible, and finally, the reviews were terrible.  In fact, the reviews were so terrible (Richard Roeper called it the Citizen Kane of bad movies) that, at first, I was perfectly content never to see it.

However, as time passed, I continually heard Movie 43 referred to as being one of the worst films ever made.  Every 12 months, I post my picks for the 26 worst films of the year and I knew that Movie 43 was one of those films that would either appear on that list or, if it didn’t, I would have to be willing to defend the title’s absence.

I realized that before I could either defend or condemn, I would have to sit through the movie.  After all, I figured, it’s only 90 minutes of my life.

90 minutes that I’ll never get back, I might add.

Movie 43 is an anthology film in which 13 separate comedic sketches are loosely linked together by one overarching story.  For the most part, this is a film that was presumably made both for adolescent boys and for men who still think like adolescent boys.  Most of the humor is derived from bodily functions and there’s a real strain of misogyny running through the entire film.  However, the film’s problem is not that it’s crude and misogynistic but that it manages to be so dull about being crude and misogynistic.  If you think its hilarious when Meg is insulted on Family Guy or when Seth McFarlane smirks after making an anti-Semitic comment, you might enjoy Movie 43 but the rest of us are going to find far less to enjoy.

Oddly enough, there are actually two different versions of Movie 43 in circulation.  In the version that was released in U.S. theaters, the various vignettes are tied together by a story in which an insane director (Dennis Quaid) pitches scene after scene to a callous movie executive (Greg Kinnear).  In the version that was released in the UK, they’re linked together by a story about 3 teenagers searching for the most offensive film ever made.  To be honest, both versions are pretty stupid but I prefer the one about the 3 teenagers, if just because that way I can pretend that neither Dennis Quaid nor Greg Kinnear had anything to do with this movie.

As for the sketches themselves, there’s 13 of them and they are a mixed bag as far as both humor and quality are concerned:

1)      The Catch (dir by Peter Farrelly)

Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman go on a blind date.  Jackman has testicles hanging from his neck and only Winslet thinks this is an odd thing.  This skit goes on forever.

2)      Homeschooled (dir by Will Graham)

Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts explain how they’re making sure that their teenage son is getting the full high school experience despite the fact that he’s being homeschooled.  They do this through a combination of hazing and incest.  This skit worked pretty well, mostly because of the dedication that Schreiber and Watts brought to their absurd roles.

3)      The Proposition (dir by Steve Carr)

Uhmm…yeah.  So, this is the skit that opens with Anna Faris asking Chris Pratt to defecate on her.  I skipped over it because, quite frankly, life is too short.

4)      Veronica (dir by Griffin Dunne)

Neil (Kieran Culkin) is working the night shift at a depressing grocery store when his ex-girlfriend Veronica (Emma Stone) comes in.  They argue about who infected who with an STD.  Little do they realize that Neil has accidentally turned on the intercom and everyone in the store can hear them.  I actually kind of liked this short skit.  Culkin and Stone had a lot of chemistry and it was well-directed by Griffin Dunne.  Plus, it only lasted 2 minutes and, therefore, ended before the joke got old.

5)      iBabe (dir by Stephen Brill)

The iBabe is an MP3 player that happens to look like a life-size nude woman.  Unfortunately, a fan was built into the iBabe’s vagina and now, teenage boys are being dismembered while fingering and fucking iBabe.  Richard Gere plays the President of the company that makes iBabe.  I’ve never thought of Richard Gere as being a comedic actor and his performance here does nothing to change that.

6)      Superhero Speed Dating (directed by James Duffy)

Robin (Justin Long) goes speed dating and Batman (Jason Sudekis) tries to mess things up for him.  This skit – which also features (and wastes) Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, and Bobby Cannavale – is so incredibly bad that I don’t even know where to begin.  Between this film and his appearance in last year’s The Conspirator, I’m having to rethink my slight crush on Justin Long.

7)      Machine Kids (directed by Jonathan Von Tulleken)

This commercial parody asks us to consider the children who work inside copiers and vending machines and how they are effected when we criticize those machines for not accepting our dollar.  This was actually so weird that I couldn’t help but love it.

8)      Middleschool Date (dir by Elizabeth Banks)

7th grader Amanda (Chloe Moretz) is having her first “middle school” date with Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) when she starts her first period.  In response, Nathan and his older brother (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) panic.  Believe it or not, this was actually one of the better parts of Movie 43, if just because the scene’s humor comes not from Amanda getting her period but instead from how every male around her descends into histrionics as a result.   It helps that this was the only part of Movie 43 that was both written and directed by women.  It also helps that director Elizabeth Banks is so clearly on Amanda’s side.  The end result is one of the few moments in Movie 43 that doesn’t feel misogynistic. 

9)      Tampax (dir by Patrik Forsberg)

This is another fake commercial.  Two girls are at the beach.  One uses tampax tampons and the other doesn’t.  Guess which one gets eaten by a shark?  As opposed to the previous skit, this bit of menstrual humor was obviously written and directed by a man (and the message, not surprisingly, is “Ewww!  Girls are scary and dangerous!”) but I’m going to have to admit that this one made me laugh if just because, like Middleschool Date, it reminded me of some of the period horror stories that I used to hear (and believe) back when I was younger.  (Though I was raised to be more concerned about bears than sharks…)

10)  Happy Birthday (dir by that noted comedian, Brett Ratner)

Pete (Johnny Knoxville) kidnaps an angry leprechaun (Gerard Butler) and gives it to Brian (Seann William Scott).  The leprechaun’s equally angry brother (also played by Gerard Butler) shows up and violence ensues.  Watching this skit was like being told a joke by someone who has no sense of humor.

11)  Truth or Dare (dir by Peter Farelly and Patrik Forsberg)

Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant are on a first date and Merchant has testicles on his neck…oh wait.  Sorry, that was Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet’s skit.  In this skit, Berry challenges Merchant to game of truth or dare.  It escalates as the dares get continually more and more outrageous.  Whoops?  Did I say outrageous?  I meant to say stupid and oddly dull.  Watching this skit was like listening to a someone who has no sense of humor continue to tell a joke even though everyone else has already guessed the punchline.

12)  Victory’s Glory (dir by Rusty Cundieff)

In this parody of “inspirational” sports movies, Coach Jackson (Terrence Howard) speaks to his basketball team before they play their first game against an all-white team.  The gist of the speech is that Jackson’s team is going to win because they’re black and the other team is white.  This skit started out strong but, like a lot of Movie 43, it ran on for a bit too long.

13)  Beezel (dir by James Gunn)

This was actually my favorite part of Movie 43.  Unfortunately, since Beezel shows up in the middle of the end credits, I get the feeling that a lot of disappointed audience members had probably already walked out of the theater before it even began.  Beezel is a cartoon cat who has an unhealthy obsession with his owner (Josh Duhamel).  When Duhamel’s girlfriend (played by Elizabeth Banks) catches Beezel masturbating to pictures of Duhamel in a swimsuit, Beezel responds by plotting her demise.  Beezel was actually the only part of Movie 43 that truly felt edgy and unpredictable.  This is largely because this segment was directed by James Gunn, one of the few truly transgressive artists currently working in mainstream film.

So, here’s the question: is Movie 43 the worst film of 2013 as so many critics have claimed?  A few isolated moments aside, Movie 43 is pretty bad.  Even the parts of the film that do work can’t hope to compete with the pure horrifying incompetence of that parts that don’t.  However, thanks largely to James Gunn and Elizabeth Banks, it’s still a smidgen or so better than Tyler Perry’s Temptation.  (For all of its failings, Movie 43 never suggests that AIDS is God’s way of punishing wives who stray.  Nope, for that message, you have to go to Tyler Perry.)

Movie 43 is not the worst film of 2013.

It just seems like it.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “The Dictator”

Well, since my less than glowing review of The Avengers (not that it was all that negative — I just said it was an okay superhero flick, not the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of the world, as some were claiming) didn’t get me tarred and feathered, I thought I would avail myself of the opportunity that this site provides me to take a look at some other films that I don’t get around to reviewing on my own site,, all that often because they just don’t fit in with the overall ethos (there’s my pretentious asshole bit out of the way) of what I try to stick to (for the most part, at any rate) over there.  Our erstwhile semi-empress, Ms. Bowman, assures me that pretty much anything goes around here, though, so without any further  ado I’m going to start up a little on-again/off-again series  where I take a look at the various summer blockbusters Hollywood is serving up this summer — something which I did, in fact, do on my own site last year, where it pretty much went over like a lead balloon, given that my readers don’t tend to stop by there looking for much by way of mainstream movie criticism. I trust folks around these parts won’t mind, though, since the mainstream isn’t something my fellow scribes here shy away from.

First up is the newly-released The Dictator, the third collaboration between supposed comic “talent” Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles. First off, let me state for the record that I have no particular objection to crass, vulgar, tasteless humor. In fact, I rather like it. But The Dictator feels less like it has an actual script than a belabored series of barely-strung-together, often overly-complicated, tremendously belabored set-ups for various gross-out gags that you can see coming from a mile (at least) away. Granted, Cohen was never going to get away with pure ad-libbing of the sort that he did in Borat again, and even the half ad-libbed/half-scripted shtick he pulled in Bruno was probably going to be a bridge too far as well, but  no way in a million years did I think his first truly non-spontaneous film was going to be this, well, clunky. It just doesn’t flow at all and it’s that blatant telegraphing of oncoming supposed “jokes,” rather than the nature of said jokes themselves, that makes this flick feel like such an insult to the audience’s collective intelligence.

Plus, there’s a none-too-subtle political agenda at work here that I find particularly underhanded and reprehensible. Let’s be honest — in between wasted cameos from the likes of Megan Fox and John C. Reilly, and criminally wasting the talents of Ben Kinglsey (who, sadly, has shown is recent years that he’ll do anything for a buck), The Dictator has one driving message from start to finish : Ahmadinejad (who Cohen’s Aladeen character is clearly based on) is a crazy loon, Iran (which the country of Wadiya that Aladeen rules over is clearly based on) is not to be trusted, the Iranians really are building nuclear weapons no matter what they say, they really want to wipe Israel off the map no matter what they say, and everyone, even cool Hollywood liberals, should get on board with the idea of bombing/and or invading them right now.

Seriously, I swear I’m not being paranoid or reading too much into things here. Before he gets lost in New York after being deposed (momentarily) by his uncle and falls in love with Anna Faris while working at her food co-op, Cohen’s Aladeen snickers as he denies his nuclear program is for peaceful, energy-producting purposes, and guffaws and snickers as he promises to leave Israel alone. Of course, the US news media assures us that Iranian “dictator” (he’s not really even the head political force in the country, but hey, whatever) Ahmadinejad does, indeed, intend to build nuclear weapons (even though more or less every international regulatory body and every truly independent defense analyst and Middle Eastern policy analyst disagrees) and he did threaten to wipe out Israel and denied the Holocaust ever happened (even though accurate translations of his comments show he’s never said anything of the sort and has been intentionally, and quite shamelessly, misquoted), so obviously Cohen’s just taking his material right from the headlines, right? Besides, didn’t I say earlier that Cohen and Charles were cool Hollywood liberals? Why, just look at that admittedly quite spot-on piece of satire  at the end of the film (which also marks more or less the only time at which Cohen and Charles hit the right notes) where Aladeen lampoons each and every facet of the so-called “war on terrorism” — he’s clearly not in favor of Bush-Cheney (or maybe that should be Bush-Cheney-Obama, since nothing in this regard has changed since the Texas oilmen left office) policies, so where do I get off thinking they’re trying to push us into another stupid war (and yes,”another stupid war” is what I object to — I’m not in any way saying that Ahmadinejad is a great guy or that  Iran isn’t a country in desperate need of wholesale reform from top to bottom — all I’m saying is that bombing and invading them is blatantly hare-brained idea)?

Oh, how short our memories are. Let’s not forget, friends, that we only went to war with Iraq after we had the so-called “opposition” on board, and that a good 75% of House and Senate Democrats voted for that ill-thought-out (to put it mildly!) scheme. Quite clearly Cohen and Charles know who their audience is, and their goal isn’t to push right-wing conservatives into supporting an attack on Iran — after all, they already do — but is rather to convince the so-called “left” (what remains of it, at any rate) that it’s a good idea, as well, since that’s the only quarter any opposition to this idea might possibly come from. And hey, let’s be honest — if Cohen and Charles really understood progressive politics at all, they wouldn’t have a picture of Barack Obama hanging on the wall of Faris’ food co-op. Ralph Nader, maybe, or Bernie Sanders, or Dennis Kucinich — but Obama? Don’t think so. These guys have clearly never spent so much as a minute in a real co-op.

Still, reprehensible as this film’s political chicanery is, it’s not the most offensive thing about The Dictator. Sorry, that still goes to its tremendously lead-footed pacing and insultingly obvious joke set-ups. Seriously, this is a movie that spends over five minutes leading up to a gag about losing a cell phone inside a woman’s vagina, and spends even longer than that cobbling together a lame punchline featuring Aladeen’s even dumber double milking a woman’s boobs into a pail. Comedy 101 — the set-up to a joke should never be more complicated than the joke itself, and when the jokes are this half-assed, they don’t require any more than the briefest of lead-in time. It’s that complete and utter non-spontaneity, ineptly handled and in service of puerile, juvenile shenanigans that hardly even deliver much of a payoff, that marks  a bigger crime, in a strictly cinematic sense, than trying to push us into another useless and counterproductive war with a wink and a nudge.

Lisa Marie Does The Dictator (directed by Larry Charles)

For the past year or so, I haven’t been able to go to a movie without seeing the trailer for the new film from the creators of Borat, The Dictator.  The first few times I saw the trailer, I chuckled at a few scenes and I rolled my eyes a few times and I thought to myself, “Maybe I’ll see that.”  And then I had to sit through that trailer another 79 times and I stopped laughing and rolling my eyes because I had reached the point where I could practically recite the entire damn trailer by memory.  For a while there, I told myself, “There’s no way I’m going to waste my time seeing this.”  But, just a week ago, I realized that, after seeing the trailer 139 times, I had no choice but to see it.

I needed closure.

I finally saw The Dictator last Wednesday and my reaction to the film can best be summed up by a mild chuckle and a shrug of my shoulders.  It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s just a rather forgettable one.

In the Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen plays General Aladeen, the ruthless leader of the Middle Eastern country of Wadiya.  Aladeen spends his time playing video games, rewriting the dictionary, ordering executions, and trying to develop a nuclear weapons program.  Aladeen is a pretty bad guy but he’s also strangely likable because 1) he’s more stupid than evil and 2) he’s played by Sacha Baron Cohen.  Anyway, Aladeen goes to New York to deliver a speech to the United Nations and while there, he’s kidnapped by an assassin (a hilarious John C. Reilly) who was hired by Aladeen’s uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley, who has pretty much cornered the market when it comes to playing evil uncles).  Though Aladeen loses his beard in the process, he manages to escape the assassin and he soon finds himself lost and unrecognized on the streets of New York City.  With the unwitting help of a clueless pro-democracy activist (a very funny Anna Faris), Aladeen attempts to figure out a way to thwart Tamir’s plan to introduce democracy to Wadiya.

Watching The Dictator is something of an odd experience because, while the film itself is full of funny moments and Sacha Baron Cohen shows an admirable willingness to follow his character to the most of logical (and illogical) of extremes, it’s also a strangely forgettable film.  It’s certainly funnier than the typical episode of Family Guy (I hate that freaking show, by the way) but it’s nowhere near as profound as a below-average episode of Community (which was the best show on TV last season, in my always correct opinion).  Director Larry Charles doesn’t seem to be sure whether he’s trying to make a thought-provoking satire or if he’s just trying to make a broad, gross-out comedy that just happens to have an international backdrop.  The end result is a film that is extremely uneven, a film that climaxes with a speech that feels like it was taken straight out of the Occupy handbook despite the fact that the movie has just spent the last 70 minutes poking fun at the Leftist stridency of the Occupy movement through the character played by Anna Faris. 

(Personally, I preferred the film when it was simply content to be funny as opposed to when it tried to be important.)

Watching this film, it became apparent to me that, for all of his comedic talent, Baron Cohen works best when his cartoonish (if well-played) characters are placed in a recognizable reality.  Baron Cohen needs a “straight man” to play off of and unfortunately, The Dictator doesn’t provide him with that.  Everyone’s equally cartoonish in this film and, as a result, the movie makes us laugh but it never really makes us think.

There’s a part of me that always wants to declare that I’m officially “burned out” on Sacha Baron Cohen because, seriously, it’s become rather trendy to claim to be a huge fan of his work.  Seriously, I’m at a point now where if I one more person brags to me about how much they loved Borat (always speaking in a tone as if to suggest that only they have seen and appreciated this “obscure” film), I am going to scream.  However, every time I get close to getting on twitter for the sole purpose of making snarky remarks about the guy, I see him give a surprisingly good performance in a film like HugoThe Dictator may not be Sacha Baron Cohen’s best film but I still look forward to seeing what he does in the future.

Film Review: Take Me Home Tonight (dir. by Michael Dowse)

I missed the 80s retro-themed comedy Take Me Home Tonight when it was released to theater earlier this year.  It was one of those films that I meant to see but then it ended up spending such a short time in theaters that I just never got the chance.  A few days ago, via OnDemand, I finally got a chance to see Take Me Home Tonight in the comfort of my own bedroom.

Plotwise, Take Me Home Tonight feels like a cinematic Frankenstein monster, stitched together from elements from all those old school 80s comedies.  Therefore, it’s appropriate that the film itself is set in 1988.  Matt (Topher Grace) is a recent graduate from M.I.T. who is spending his post-graduate life working at Suncoast Video.  One day, while at work, he happens to run into Tori (Teresa Palmer), his high school crush.  When Tori asks Matt what he’s doing with his life post-high school, Matt quickly replies that he’s working at Goldman Sachs.  Tori then invites Matt to attend a weekend party being held by Kyle Masterson (Chris Pratt), a vaguely insane frat boy type who also happens to be the boyfriend of Matt’s twin sister, Wendy (Anna Faris).  In typical 80s comedy fashion, this leads to Matt and his friend Barry (Dan Folger) stealing a car, coming across a secret stash of cocaine, destroying a suburban neighborhood with a big metal ball, and eventually coming to several heart-warming (but not too heart-warming) conclusions about what they want out of life and what the future holds.

For a film like this to work, you have to care about the characters enough to be willing to stick with them even though they spend the majority of the film acting like complete morons.  Fortunately, the film is very well-cast with nice supporting turns from Folger, Faris, and Michael Biehn (who plays Matt’s father and who gets a great scene where he “arrests” his own son).  Folger is especially good, bringing a hilarious intensity to a familiar role.  From the minute that little baggie of cocaine first shows up on-screen, you know that Folger’s going to end up with a white powder all over his face.  What you don’t expect is just how hilarious a committed comic performer can make even the most familiar of comedic developments.  Dan Folger rubs cocaine on his teeth as if the world depended upon it. 

However, the film really belongs to Topher Grace (who not only stars in but also co-produced and co-wrote the film).  Now, I have to admit that when I was much younger, I used to love That 70s Show and I had the biggest crush on Topher Grace.  (I had an even bigger crush on Danny Masterson but that’s another story.)   As this film was apparently put together by many of the same people who were involved with That 70s Show, it’s not surprising that Take Me Home Tonight almost feels like it could be a sequel to that show.  Much as he did in That 70s Show, Grace provides the anchor here, keeping the film grounded (at times just barely) in reality.  It seems like whenever I see Topher Grace in the movies, he’s always playing some sort of psycho.  So, it was nice to see him back to doing what he does best, playing the sympathetic everyman who spends every day walking the fine line between cool and awkward. 

When Take Me Home Tonight was released in theaters earlier this year, it was greeted with mediocre reviews and poor box office.  But you know what?  It’s really not that bad of a film.  Yes, the plot is predictable and the jokes are more warmly amusing than laugh-out-loud funny.  However, this film is predictable in much the same way a funny but oft-told joke is predictable.  Take Me Home Tonight is a case where familiarity breeds not contempt but comfort.  It’s a type of comfort that’s probably better suited for being watched on a television while multi-tasking as opposed to being seen on the big screen with no other distractions.  Seriously, if Take Me Home Tonight was a weekly sitcom, it would probably end up getting nominated for all sorts of Emmys.