Take Me Home Tonight directed by Michael Dowse is a comedy about the ‘80s but its futility is timeless: In just about any decade it would be considered generic and unfunny. Set in 1988 it stars the likable and witty Topher Grace as Matt a recent MIT grad with a crippling case of post-college career-indecision. Working as a lowly clerk at a video store he has a chance encounter with his high-school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) who to his (and our) surprise actually displays faint interest in him. But Matt fails to pull the trigger and so he resolves to make up for his lack of cojones when he sees her later that evening at a party hosted by the preppy douchebag boyfriend (Chris Pratt) of his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris).
This sets the stage for an eventual romantic union between Matt and Tori; until then there is insecurity to overcome and wacky adventures to be had. Many of the latter stem from the increasingly unhinged behavior of Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). The film turns on a bag of cocaine Barry finds in the glove compartment of a Mercedes stolen from the dealership that fired him earlier in the day. Cocaine is renowned for its ability to induce euphoria in even the most mundane of settings but it has arguably the opposite effect on Take Me Home Tonight. I consider Fogler to be a legitimately funny guy but he has the irritating tendency to compensate for underwritten material by wildly overacting. Throw in a bag of blow and that tendency is amplified ten-fold.
A happy standout in the film is Palmer who brings a liveliness and dignity to the stereotypical rom-com role of the Otherworldly Hottie Who Inexplicably Falls for the Stammering Schlub. (It also helps that she's the only member of the main cast who is young enough to realistically portray a recent college graduate.) She is one of the more talented young Australian exports to arrive on our shores in quite some time and has the potential to become a saucier version of fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. That is if she finds material better than Take Me Home Tonight.
Although Tokyo Drift may not be as straightforward as the first Fast and Furious it is at least more credible than the second incorporating a nice fish-out-of-water element to its story. High schooler Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) loves to street race but unfortunately it gets him into a lot of trouble. After his latest stunt it’s either go live with his estranged military father stationed in Tokyo or go to jail. Sushi sounds nice. Once there however it doesn’t take long for Sean to be introduced to the underground world of drift racing by his new American buddy Twinkie (Bow Wow)--and boy does Sean get hooked. It’s perfect for his rebel style. But it doesn’t come easy to him. He has to put in his dues first and inevitably as rebels are wont to do ends up rubbing the some of the local drift-racing denizens the wrong way including D.K. (Brian Tee) the reigning champ who has ties to a Japanese crime syndicate. That’s OK though. Sean will win the race and get the girl no worries. Oh sorry did I give too much away? Many of you might remember Black as the cute but tough little kid Billy Bob Thornton’s Karl befriends in Sling Blade. But now all grown up the actor is definitely becoming a likable screen hunk with turns in films like Jarhead and Friday Night Lights. Obviously the comparisons to Fast and Furious regular Paul Walker are expected but Black definitely has his own style and charisma thanks to that distinctive Southern drawl. Bow Wow is a tad under utilized as the relegated sidekick while the token girl part is played by the bland but beautiful newcomer Nathalie Kelley. Sean’s adversary Tee (TV’s Zoey 101) is pretty badass though and Sung Kang (Better Luck Tomorrow) does a nice job as a smooth drift racer and small-time hood who is more sympathetic towards Sean. Veteran Japanese actor Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill Vol. 1) makes a memorable appearance as D.K.’s nefarious uncle. But make sure you stay until the end for a well-placed--and crowd pleasing--surprise guest cameo. So what is drift racing exactly? According to the notes it’s an exhilarating balance of speeding and gliding through a heart-stopping course of hairpin turns and switchbacks. Whatever the definition it looks pretty darn cool up on the big screen. Director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow) gives us some exhilarating racing sequences going from close-up cuts to slo-mo shots as cars zip flip glide and burn as much rubber as possible. One particular scene has the guys racing through the streets of Tokyo in which they have to drift their way through a large crowd of people. Seat-clenching stuff. Lin also does a fine job showing Japanese culture and how street racing is treated there. At one point Sean passes some cops going 197 mph. Wondering why they aren’t chasing him his Japanese passenger explains that since he was going so fast the Toyko police won’t even try to chase him because they know they’d never catch up. Wouldn’t that be nice? Oh and there’s a disclaimer at the end: All the racing done in the movie was handled by professional stunt drivers and we shouldn’t attempt to do any of this on our own. You mean I can’t drive home from the theater drifting around the cars on the highway? Darn my luck!