Those of us who lived through the 1980’s (which saw me in my formative 5 – 15 years) fall into one of two camps: Either we think back on those days with heartfelt nostalgia or we cringe every time a certain photo album is pulled off the shelves in our parent’s homes. Personally I fall into the latter camp and would gladly tell people I was torn from the thigh of Zeus as a fully grown 16 year old in 1990. That’s not to say nothing good came out of the 80’s – it gave us Ghostbusters, Top Gun, the first three Indiana Jones entries and other movies – but personally there’s very little about the decade I’d voluntarily revisit.
Current movies about the 80’s tend to take a humorous look at the styles and culture from that period. There are usually jokes about the hair, the suits and such as people comment on how compact and portable that clunky Walkman hanging off someone’s belt is and such.
Playing it more straight is Take Me Home Tonight. Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is an aimless college grad working at Suncoast Video while he tries to figure out what to do with his life. One night he, his sister Wendy (Anna Farris) and his friend Barry (Dan Fogler) get invited to a party and they decide to go a little nuts. Matt decides this is the night he’s going to tell Tori (Teresa Palmer) he’s in love with her. As is the case with many such movies things don’t go quite as planned, though, and everyone’s night takes a turn they weren’t expecting.
The one poster for the movie is pretty funny, not so much explaining the story but certainly setting the scene. Each actor is placed in their own quadrant of the poster, each sporting their best 80’s era sunglasses, hairspray-heavy doo or rocking bandana. The colored lights behind everyone are bright and neon, adding to the notion here that we’re a couple decades behind the pace in the movie. And finally the “Best. Night. Every” clearly lays out that the action in the movie is going to unfold over one fantastic night.
As I said, there’s not a ton of creativity going on with the poster but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It lays out a couple basic elements rather well and while it’s not a surefire home run it presents a bunch of amusing people in what might be for some an amusing situation so works well enough.
We start off in the first trailer by meeting Matt, who’s under pressure by his parents to do something with himself. When he sees the girl of his dreams he lies and says he’s much more successful than he really is and then watches as his friend “borrows” a car from the dealership he works at. Barry then finds himself in a weird cocaine/sex situation while at the party and Matt then watches as his sister accepts her boyfriend’s engagement proposal, all while he works on wooing Tori at the party as well. But then things start to go massively wrong as he finds he gets in his own way and can’t have a purely enjoyable night.
The trailer works far better than it should as we get a good sense of where most of these characters are coming from. There are a handful of references to 80’s nostalgia but they don’t seem to be played for laughs so much as they’re there just to more fully set the scene for the audience. So there’s no one laughing at the pushed up jacket sleeves or anything like that. They’re just there. But honestly it’s Grace’s deadpan delivery the last scene of the trailer that actually makes the whole thing seem at all attractive.
Later on a red-band trailer was released that basically jettisoned any pretenses of showing off the story or plot in favor of a bunch of R-rated antics. So we get drug use, some naked breasts and more as we focus on the night of debauchery that the characters partake in. They steal the car, someone rides a big metal ball and so on at the crazy party they attend. It’s actually not all that funny since there’s no connective thread here and is instead just a bunch of strung-together scenes that were chosen because they contained swear words. Unfortunately by eschewing all the setup of Grace’s character trying to go crazy and escape his directionless experience the jokes are given no setup.
The movie’s official website opens with a recreation of the poster key art and the prompt to watch the trailer or connect with the movie on Twitter or Facebook.
When you Enter the Site and it finishes loading the cover of “Don’t You Want Me” by Atomic Tom starts playing and there’s a nice little cassette icon down by the player. Along the bottom of the page there’s also the option to “Watch the Music Video” and there will be more on that later. Also down there is a link to a movie-themed app for both iPhones and Android devices called Best Night Ever, something that allows you to catalog your best nights out and invite friends to share their own photos and comments from whatever activities you all were engaging in.
Going back to the main Menu, the first section there is actually “Gallery” and it’s there that you’ll find about a dozen stills from the film. Both trailers and a TV Spot are in the “Video” section.
“About” has bios and career histories of the Filmmakers and Cast as well as a Synopsis that gives the reader insights into the story and setting.
There’s a Twitter Background as well as Wallpapers formatted for both computers and either iPhone or Android phones can be found in “Downloads.” The last point is a nice touch since I don’t see a lot of content that’s specifically meant for mobile phones on sites like this very often.
The “Arcade” has some mildly fun games to play that look like the kind of thing you’d find in a mall arcade. Finally there’s a section for the “Partners” that worked with the studio in promoting the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A bit of TV advertising was done, with spots airing that didn’t mention the 80’s retro theme overtly, only hinting at it enough that people paying attention to the clothes being worn could peg the time setting. Instead it’s positioned as simply a raunchy comedy that takes place at some form of wild party.
There was also some online advertising done that simply re-purposed the poster art into ad units.
Two companies signed on as promotional partners for the film, Virgin Mobile and Zorb Smokey Mountains, a theme park attraction that’s location in Pigeon Forge, TN. No details on what those partnerships entail are on either of those company’s websites.
Media and Publicity
While media stories on the movie were few and far between one thing that got a lot of people talking was a music video (how 80’s is that) that featured the cast at a party and had them eventually reenacting in makeshift costumes iconic 80’s movies ranging from Say Anything to Ghostbusters to Dirty Dancing to Weird Science to E.T. to The Karate Kid to Back to the Future and more. It’s more fun than it really should be.
There were also a couple stories like this one (New York Times, 2/20/11) that talked about how much the movie owed to other “one night out” films like Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti as well as how the filmmakers didn’t want to make fun of the 80’s but instead wanted to just use it as the legitimate setting for the story.
When the campaign first started I was, to put it mildly, skeptical. Whatever it was trying to do just was not working for me. While things changed over time and I began to get what the marketing was trying to do I think my perception of it personally changed a bit and I began to see it as a movie that might have a few laughs from a mostly game cast.
That doesn’t mean, though, that I think there are going to be vast swaths of the audience that are super interested here. I just wonder who the people are who are clammoring for a straight and not ironic, post-modern take on the 80’s party scene are. You can make a period piece without going for the tongue-in-cheek laughs but I think by selling the movie as a return to the decade of Reagan a lot of people are going to be expecting laughs at the expense of hairspray and rolled-up jacket sleeves.
So while the campaign might be authentic enough it’s questionable as to how much it’s actually going to resonate with the audience.
PICKING UP THE SPARE