published Friday, March 4th, 2011

'Take Me Home Tonight' affable enough

By Robert W. Butler/Kansas City Star

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Rated: R

Running time: 1:54

We've all seen "Take Me Home Tonight" a dozen times already.

A young protagonist makes big life decisions during a long, rambunctious night of partying. Think "American Graffiti" or "Superbad."

But this romantic comedy is affable enough, thanks to the pleasant presence of Topher Grace (who also wrote and produced) and a manic sidekick performance from Dan Fogler, a Tony winner (for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee") attempting to bull his way into the movies.

Matt (Grace) is a recent graduate of MIT but has no idea what to do with his life. He's back home in California, living with his parents and working at a video store (the year is 1988).

A drunken get-together with high school classmates dovetails conveniently with his chance encounter with Tori (Teresa Palmer of "I Am Number Four"), the girl he worshipped from afar for years. Now, determined to impress her, Matt spins a lie about a flourishing career at a big investment firm.

The screenplay by Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Grace and Gordon Kaywin punches the usual buttons. Matt and his obnoxious pal Barry (Fogler) buff up their images by "borrowing" a jazzy sports car from the lot where Barry was recently fired. Then they're off to an evening of sexual high jinks and indiscriminate drug and alcohol consumption,

Before it's all over, naturally, Matt must somehow reveal his fabrications to his dream girl. Will she still think he's witty and bright? Barry, whose blood alcohol level can be measured by the unruliness of his curly hair, discovers his sexual and dance floor prowess.

None of this is remotely surprising, yet I frequently found myself laughing (particularly at Fogler's wild-man behavior) and sympathizing with Matt's predicament (face it, Grace is impossible to dislike).

Director Michael Dowse has the good sense to get out of the way and let an amusing cast (among the players are Anna Faris, Michael Biehn, Lucy Punch, Demetri Martin, Michael Ian Black and Bob Odenkirk) do their thing.

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