There are so many issues that plague the everyday lives of most men in their mid-30s: Should I be on time to work today? What should I pick up off of the floor and wear out tonight? When am I going to find the answers to inner peace? When should I move out of my parents’ house? Wait a minute, that last one doesn’t seem to be a very common quandry placed in the hands of your average man in his mid-30s. But it is, however, the subject of the most recent romantic comedy from Paramount Pictures, appropriately named Failure to Launch.
Failure to Launch is the story of Trip (Matthew McConaughey), the fearless and stubborn momma’s boy who is completely comfortable living at home with his parents. Much of Trip’s reluctance to spread his wings and move out of the house is based in the fact that he is able to carry on a worry-free existence. Trip’s mother Sue (Kathy Bates) does his laundry, cleans his room, cooks him breakfast in the morning, and along with his father Al (Terry Bradshaw), she allows Trip to stay home without the slightest possibility of rent. On top of that, Trip’s two friends Ace (Justin Bartha) and Demo (Bradley Cooper) share in his glory of live-at-home bliss. That is until Trip’s folks decide to take action, hiring professional “motivator” Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) to simulate a romance with Trip and cause him to man up and move out. And their plan is perfect, until the ever-professional Paula allows her emotions to begin to get in the way, falling for Trip’s wit and charm, and ultimately putting a kink in the plans of his scheming parents.
This film is truly a date night movie in its essence, which is in many ways both a good thing and a bad thing. The good part is that it provides decent laughs thanks to the well planned and timely performances of the supporting cast. Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure) provide significant comic relief with their antics as Demo and Ace, Trip’s two extreme sports junkie friends. They provide a nice getaway from the meat of the film, which centers on the love story between Trip and Paula.
If by some stroke of luck I were to become Matthew McConaughey’s manager, I would hope to be astute enough to inform him of the very eminent danger that he is putting himself in by taking roles like this one. McConaughey is beginning to exhibit what I like to call the “John Cusack Phenomenon,” whereas he is beginning to pop up in an endless amount of romantic comedies, forced to reprise the same cookie-cutter roles from film to film. If you compare his role in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and his role in this film, you may struggle to find anything more than similarities. The only thing that has changed is his leading lady.
The same could also be said for the lovely, and very funny, Sarah Jessica Parker. From her role in The Family Stone to this one, she has successfully demonstrated her range from portraying an awkwardly funny, overly mature woman to portraying, well, an awkwardly funny, overly mature woman. And while there are some contrasts between her roles in this film and The Family Stone, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how well she plays the know-it-all sex and relationship guru who doesn’t quite have love figured out, a la her most successful role in Sex and the City. For this film she does deliver some laughs and some eye candy to balance out the Matthew McConaughey stud-a-thon, although she doesn’t show us anything new or dynamic.
But while the film flounders overall in any attempts to bring us a fresh romantic comedy, there are some very notable factors that make Failure to Launch worth it as a date night flick. One factor is the hysterical performance by Fox Sunday NFL analyst Terry Bradshaw, who has not starred in a movie since he was figuratively booed off the screen in the early ’80s for attempting to cross over from football legend to the silver screen. He delivers by far the most gut busting scene in the film when he dons his birthday suit and casually holds a conversation with Trip. The other factor was the performance of the significantly underused Zooey Deschanel, who plays Paula’s neurotic and moody roommate, Kit. Her few moments on screen are a nice change of pace from the smooth and sometimes sappy love story that is occurring in the background.
On a par with other romantic comedies, Failure to Launch delivers a solid amount of laughs and is sure to keep the eyes of any woman glued to the screen for all 97 minutes of its run time, thanks to McConaughey. And while he is the focal point of the film, there is plenty in it for the opposite sex as well. A solid base of humor and some slap-stick moments will at least keep you awake. And the aforementioned 97-minute run time is a nice benefit as well. So while Failure to Launch may not draw any critical acclaim as it is just another predictable, cookie-cutter romantic comedy, it isn’t a particularly poor choice for the good ole’ dinner and a movie date.
Generally funny. A solid choice for date night.
Don’t go searching for anything you haven’t already seen in previous Matthew McConaughey chick flicks, because it isn’t there.
On the Side:
The script for this film was not written by the same writer as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, although you may think so.
Making the Grade:
The Story: C
The Acting: C+
The Intangibles: C
By Neil Miller, Editor of Film School Rejects.