A movie set in another moment in time can take one of two approaches. There is the serious approach, the graceful period piece that weaves the fabric of a different era and a universal set of themes to create a story both timeless and reflective of its settings. Think war films, and, of course, dramas such as "The King's Speech".
The other choice is parody, pointing out and laughing at the most hilariously out of date and sometimes regrettable relics: the hippie ethos (its real message subverted for easy laughs) for the 60's, disco dancing for the 70's, infant technology and impossibly bold fashion choices for the 80's, and frizzy hair and valley girls for the 90's. This is the route nearly all comedies have ever taken. Topher Grace took a different road.
"I really loved John Hughes movies," the star told The Huffington Post. "We wanted to make the first movie that's not making fun of the 80s or the time past the 80s, and just be the first movie not spoofing it. There have been plenty of movies about the 80s, but they were all making fun of it -- guy has a huge brick cell phone, saying 'look how small this cellphone is!' or 'there will be hover cars by the year 1995.'"
"Take Me Home Tonight," the film that eventually came out of that idea, is the story of a shy, geeky guy that finally lands a chance with the gorgeous blonde girl of his dreams. He's joined in the adventure by a sensible sister and goofball friend. Sound familiar? Good. "Take Me Home Tonight" is not just a movie set in the 80's -- it's an 80's movie itself.
The decade produced a long line of lovable, oft-quoted and now cable syndicated teen comedy and love stories, with stars such as John Cusak, Matthew Broderick and, of course, The Brat Pack of Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald and company. Their heartbreak, angst, witty banter and wild romps cemented forever their claim to cinematic and societal importance, creating a certain template and genre all to their own. And "Take Me Home Tonight" would have fit right in.
Its hero is the inheritor of a long tradition of downtrodden yet lovable guys searching for meaning -- and that dream girl. Matt, Grace's character, is a fresh MIT grad without a real job, trying to find his way in life. He meets a girl afraid of the future she feels mapped out for her, and quickly falls for his seemingly fun, trampoline-jumping free spirit.
If she were in another town, she may have had a crush on John Cusak; instead, it's a quick crush on Grace's Franklin, a character whose entire existence is a nod to "Say Anything's" Lloyd Dobbler and his "dare to be great moment" following a just-past commencement. Though, it should be noted, Matt's recent college graduation is more "St. Elmo's Fire" than the courting of Diane Court.
And while it certainly has its relics -- a Suncoast video, cheesy yearbooks and former classmates who don't know everything about each other thanks to Facebook -- they are all a natural, logical part of the story. Matt works at Suncoast, and as much as he hates it, it's a legitimate job, not a wink at the audience that look, there used to be a place where you could actually buy physical copies of music.
"That's what we wanted to do, make it like, we took a time machine back to that time and made a movie then. No one sits around and says 'how weird is this hair?' in the 80's."
And that's what they did. Although, small quibble: Ducky never did a whole bag of cocaine.