Failure to Launch
July 5, 2006
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, Terry Bradshaw, Kathy Bates, Steven Tobolowsky, Tyrell Jackson Williams, Katheryn Winnick,
It speaks volumes for a movie that was in theatres only a few scant months ago and is already out on DVD. You know that there’s something wrong when Terry Bradshaw gets the bulk of the best notices. Welcome to Failure to Launch (2006), a romantic comedy that trots out the tired manchild-who-refuses-to-grow-up routine…again.
Tripp (McConaughey) is a 35-year-old still living with his parents. And why not? He’s got a pretty sweet set-up: his mom (Bates) does his laundry, makes his bed and cooks his meals. Along with his two buddies (Bartha and Cooper), who also live at home with their parents, he’s the poster child for arrested development. Tripp is a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy who dumps girls by letting them know that he still lives with mom and dad. However, his folks have had enough and decide to give their son a little push out of the nest. So, they hire a beautiful woman named Paula (Parker) who specializes in building up the self-esteem of her subjects so that they feel confident enough to move out. To achieve this, Paula pretends to fall in love with Tripp. Of course, it isn’t going to be that easy and a battle of wills (and of the sexes) ensues.
Matthew McConaughy and Sarah Jessica Parker are appealing enough leads but they have no chemistry together. We are not invested in their relationship because of the screenplay’s lack of character development. McConaughey’s got an instantly likable charm, a laid-back good ol’ boy kind of vibe and isn’t too aw shucks about it. He’s an actor who is comfortable in his own skin which sounds kind of obvious but is a rare quality in an actor. Parker is a good foil for McConaughey’s boyish antics but they are both let down by the film’s clunky screenplay.
Zooey Deschanel play Parker’s sarcastic best friend. It is a thankless role and one that she’s played before. Her character’s recurring quirk is a maddening obsession with a noisy mockingbird who has camped outside her house. The more interesting storyline in this movie is the budding romance between Deschanel and Justin Bartha’s characters. They are two quirky characters (the scene where they give a mockingbird CPR has to be seen to be believed) that are fun to watch and one wishes that they would get their own spin-off movie. Failure to Launch would have been infinitely better if their relationship was the focus and McConaughey and Parker’s was secondary instead. Bradshaw is surprisingly good as Tripp’s father – who would’ve thought? He holds his own against a veteran actor like Kathy Bates and you actually believe that he could be McConaughey’s son. But did we really need to see Bradshaw naked? It’s an image that is unfortunately burned in my brain.
If anything, Failure to Launch is derivative, story-wise, of a previous McConaughey vehicle, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) with Parker in the Kate Hudson role. It also evokes countless Adam Sandler films that cornered the market on the manchild protagonist. Tripp has a classic case of fear of commitment. He enjoys his independence way too much to get attached to one woman for too long. This film resorts to obvious slapstick and a disturbing amount of violence towards animals that is disguised as wacky antics and it feels forced. Almost every line of dialogue was lifted or paraphrased from other movies and television shows giving the entire film a been there, done that vibe that is very disappointing. Failure to Launch fails to please on practically every level.
“Casting Off: The Making of Failure to Launch.” Director Tom Dey wanted to make a romantic comedy in the tradition of Billy Wilder. The screenwriters were interested in exploring a character that has a fear of intimacy. Everyone gushes enthusiastically about everyone in this fluffy promotional featurette.
“The Failure to Launch Phenomenon” examines the social trend of adults who still live at home with soundbites of actual guys who still live at home. They come across as basically immature manchildren. Experts also talk about this trend. The question has now become, when does adulthood begin?
“Dating in the New Millennium” examines new dating practices, in particular, online dating which allows people to specify their tastes. Experts talk about its pros in what feels like an ad for dating websites.
“Moviefone.com Unscripted with Matthew and Terry.” The two men interview each other with questions submitted by fans. They are both smart-ass jokers and have fun doing this as they don’t take things too seriously making this easily the most entertaining extra on the disc.
“The Failure to Launch Contest” shows the three finalists of a contest that takes three people who still live at home and need that push to be independent with cast members Bradley Cooper and Justin Bartha picking the winner.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.