Failure to Launch is yet another ill-conceived romantic comedy that sinks into a third act full of preposterous nonsense.
PG-13 for one f-word and a scene of Bradshaw's buttocks
In the interest of getting things moving as quickly as possible, Failure to Launch multi-tasks in its opening scene. It introduces its protagonist, Tripp (Matthew McConaughey, Sahara), while he’s attending an exercise class.
One task is to show Tripp is a modern, sensitive, holistic guy. The other task is to immediately set up his dating situation. Surely to the annoyance of all the ladies in the class, Tripp breaks the silence by chatting with his two buddies about women while contorting his body into a pretzel.
Turns out Tripp is a Baltimore-based boat broker who loves women. And women love him back. In droves.
But Tripp is also a 35-year-old emotional retard, for lack of a better term. He lives at home with Mom and Dad (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw) and, when he’s ready to break up with a girl, he simply brings her back home for hot sex and a chance to meet the parents.
It would seem, then, that Tripp’s entire dating life revolves around one-night stands.
According to Tripp, though, he’s not afraid of love. No, no, monsieur. Instead, he chooses to celebrate a certain lifestyle with his best buddies, who also live at home with their ‘rents. It’s a lifestyle that involves rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, boating, paintball, and videogames.
Tripp’s buddy Demo (Bradley Cooper, TV’s Alias) also likes to travel the world, an accomplishment he manages on a Kinko’s salary. Er, rather, he used to, before Kinko’s fired his holistic butt. His other buddy, Ace (Justin Bartha, National Treasure), is a personality-challenged software developer who, for the most part, does nothing more than tag along.
As it turns out, Tripp’s parents are looking forward to their “empty nest” days, but coddling the boy with fresh-cooked meals, clean laundry, and other accoutrements simply doesn’t give him the incentive to live on his own.
Enter Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City). She’s a “professional interventionist” hired by Tripp’s parents to date the man-child and woo him out of the house into a place of his own. (It’s never made clear what Paula’s “exit strategies” entail once a client is moved out. But apparently it’s not a concern because everything turns up roses – all the time – and everybody manages to live happily ever after.)
It is funny that Paula introduces herself to Tripp as a teacher who works with “special needs kids.” That’s cute.
Also cute are the scenes in which Tripp, fighting against the forces of nature that send “normal” people out into the world, on their own, typically in their teens or early 20s, gets bitten by such tender creatures as a chipmunk, a dolphin, and a vegetarian lizard.
Those scenes are actually almost clever. But the film’s two writers, Matt Ember and Tom J. Astle, who both previously wrote exclusively for TV shows, have a hard time keeping things going during the film’s scant 97 minutes. It feels like a hard earned, draining 3 hours.
Sleepless in Baltimore
The brightest part of this mostly dim affair is Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous) as Kit, Paula’s roommate. She gets all the best lines and has the movie’s best walk. Yes. She has a certain walk about her, particularly when she walks down the aisle while staring longingly at a rifle being cleaned by a salesman at a sporting goods shop.
Kit’s big crisis is a mockingbird that’s taken to hanging out outside her bedroom. After many a sleepless night, Kit’s ready to introduce that sweet little annoyance to her newest friends, Smith and Wesson.
As far as sub-subplots go, that one’s entertaining.
Unfortunately, the main romance between Tripp and Paula, well, it trips up. There’s no chemistry between McConaughey and Parker. In fact, their relationship is downright unbelievable. Their characters simply don’t gel and it only gets worse after Tripp finds out about Paula’s real employer, his own parents.
Most problematic is a ridiculously contrived reconciliation between Tripp and Paula that is displayed, via a Webcam, on a bar’s jumbo screens to the rapt attention of all the customers thanks to Ace, who also, in an earlier scene, blackmailed Paula into getting him a date with Kit.
As a final insult, the contrivances extend to providing a noble rationale behind why Tripp and his buddies stayed home for so long. Even so, Tripp… well, his supposedly “deep” reason still reveals something more akin to a spoiled brat who can’t build a bridge and get on with life.