Failure to Launch
There is an amusing movie
in the high concept of Failure to Launch.
The idea of a 35 year-old
man still living with his parents – long after they are ready for him to
spread his wings – is trenchant these days. As the movie accurately
points out, this kind of thing is happening more and more in these days of
high prices, low wages and late marriages. It could be deliriously
funny, just check out Chris Elliott's short-lived sitcom Get A Life.
It is a very comic situation that should be easily exploited for laughs.
However, Failure to
Launch squanders its good idea mercilessly.
It is a romantic comedy
which is neither romantic nor comic. In fact, it misfires on almost
Let's start with the
casting. Matthew McConaughey is much too chiseled, too self-confident,
too clever, too comfortable in his own skin. You never truly believe
he would be in this position. His character, Trip, has a good job.
He has a hot car. He is a suave liar and dates regularly. He
even has a sexy-man name. A guy like that is not going to crimp his
lifestyle just to get a home-cooked meal and have his laundry done for him.
Trip's best friend, played by Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers, Kitchen
Confidential) is similarly way too together to be stuck in the same rut.
Sarah Jessica Parker is
also all wrong for her role. She plays Paula, a woman who makes a
living hiring herself out to parents, getting involved with their sons,
talking them into moving out from the parents house and then dumping them
flat. This is a mean, heartless thing to do and Parker seems much too
nice to be that cold. Also, frankly, she just isn't sexy enough to be
believable in getting a man to completely overturn his life for her – maybe
the cameo nerd (Patton Oswalt) she is working at on the side might be
desperate enough, but certainly not Trip.
The truth is – and this is
a bad, bad thing for a romantic comedy – the two of them deserve each
other, and not in a good way. Both can be casually cruel – beyond
Paula's job, she also says some very hurtful things to her roommate and
apparently only close girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel). He uses his
parents as a gimmick to dump girlfriends due to his commitment-phobia, a
habit that is obviously hard on everyone else but him. A tragic past
is stuck on late in the film, but it is too little and too late to explain
how he has become what he is. Just because Trip hangs out with a
little orphan boy doesn't make him any less of an asshole. He, too, is
a jerk to his friends.
Those friends, particularly
Deschanel and Cooper, are much more interesting and likable than are our
leads. Of course, Failure to Launch is so tin-eared to real
life that it does not get these two cute sidekicks together, instead saddling them with
less interesting new conquests.
Kathy Bates is also, as
always, pretty terrific in the supporting role as Trip's long-suffering
mother. However, any sex comedy in which the only main character to
get naked is Terry Bradshaw has a real mean streak.
This mean streak is further
shown in several scenes in which human beings (mostly McConaughey) are
bitten by wild animals. It isn't funny the first time, but Failure
to Launch keeps dragging this desperate act out to further the plot.
Then, the eventual explanation that the movie tries to foist on the audience
– that Trip is going against nature in his lifestyle and therefore nature
is rejecting him – is both horribly condescending and at the same time
In the end, no one gives a
damn whether these two self-centered characters live happily ever after
(honestly, I was rooting for a tragic ending for both). So when the
eventual final confrontation is shown – broadcast on the Internet
for no other reason than so they could show friends' and strangers' reactions
– the audience shares a collective shrug, wondering what there was to save
in this relationship. More likely, the viewers are thinking "better
them than me."
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: April 6, 2006.