The movie stars Topher Grace, best-known as Eric Forman in "That '70s Show." In this film, he moves up a decade as Matt Franklin, a graduate of Sherman High School's class of 1984. The time is now 1988 and after graduating from MIT, he returns home.
He doesn't know what direction he wants to take in life, so he works at Suncoast Video - much to the disdain of his father, who spent a portion of his savings to send Matt to such a prestigious and expensive school.
Although Matt knows his father is disappointed in him, he refuses to go down the path that everyone thinks he should travel. He gets it - he was a brainy shy nerd in high school who should probably be making brainy shy nerd money - but he wants to be and do something different. He just doesn't know what that is yet.
Even after four years in college, high school is a big part of his life. He still hangs out with Barry (Dan Fogle), a spastic mess of a friend who skipped college to go to work as a car salesman. While Barry may have good intentions behind his actions, he is so clumsy that he just falls flat on his face - even at the expense of losing his job. Hilarious for the audience, but bad for Barry.
Another part of high school that Matt can't escape is his crush/obsession with Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), the proverbial most-popular girl in school. He constantly beats himself about his missed opportunity with her.
Enter movie magic.
In a crazy stroke of luck, Matt looks up to see his dream girl heading in his direction. Not wanting to seem like the loser she probably remembers him as, he finagles a way to casually bump into her and lie about his accomplishments as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
After four years of waiting for this moment, it goes fairly smooth. Tori actually mentions a party being thrown by rich kid Kyle Masterson, who is also dating Matt's twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris). It's Labor Day weekend, and it's touted as the last blast of the summer. Not willing to miss out, Matt says he will be there.
Speaking of Wendy, she seems to be a step ahead of her brother. She has applied to Cambridge for graduate school and literally has her future in her hands with an unopened letter from the university with her status. Her fears and her reluctance to tell her boyfriend could land her in the same boat with Matt and Barry: Stuck.
All of these crossroads in their lives are on their minds on the way to the party where Barry, in a well-intended effort to boost Matt's chances with Tori, decides to "borrow" a Benz from his former place of employment. Barry didn't count on the alarm code being changed, turning this temporary loan into an all-out theft.
But it works, as Matt gets another lucky chance with Tori in his quest to do what he was so afraid to do as a teenager. It's one night and a chance of a lifetime for everyone involved. Decisions - good, bad and unbelievable - will be made that night.
Grace's portrayal of Matt reminds me of that '80s nerd, a la Anthony Michael Hall: skinny, painfully shy and excruciatingly awkward. However, when he lets his guard down and is truly himself, he is charming, funny and a good guy to be around. Lucky for Matt, Tori begins to see these qualities as well.
Reminiscent of the Brat Pack movies, there is a soliloquy about what at least one of the characters going through and some sort of representation of his/her hurdle. John Cusack with his boom box in "Say Anything." Hall with a pair of panties in "Pretty in Pink." Hall writing the letter in "The Breakfast Club." Hall in anything from the 1980s. In this film, there's Matt Franklin and "The Ball."
With reunions coming every five or 10 years, high school can be a part of your life that you can't escape. However, it's good to look back - just don't get stuck there.
But these characters do just that. Kyle is still throwing parties like a high school senior whose parents are out of town and Wendy is right there with him. Matt can't shake his reputation of being a nerd, which he is constantly reminded of at the party by people he runs into. Tori is still the most beautiful, popular girl in the room, complete with a clique of pretty girls. Barry is still a screw-up and finds himself in one situation after the next.
There are a lot of story lines, but everything eventually comes together and decisions will be made. However, it's a little too good to be true that everything happens in one day.
It's hard to recreate the past, but this movie has fun trying. Visually, the '80s are in full force. From the opening credits are images of a young Whitney Houston album cover, Alf and yearbook pictures complete with big hair, shoulder pads and bad sweaters. It's nostalgia at its best.
What's not so consistent are the looks of the characters. Sometimes, it's spot on and other times, it's a little bit of 1995, some 2011, back to 2001 - maybe it's bad editing or costume design, but it's a little distracting.
I think the best '80s movies are ones actually made in that decade. Nevertheless, Grace makes a decent first effort in paying homage to the era and showing the universal nature of perpetual high school angst. Mixed with a soundtrack with classic songs and bad fashion, and it makes for a funny movie. Party on.