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March 2005

Failure To Launch

By Kam Williams

Failure To Launch

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Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Tom Dey
Screenwriters: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Cinematographer: Claudio Miranda
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Kathy Bates, Terry Bradshaw, Bradley Cooper



   



 

 

   

Desperate Parents Hire Temptress to Seduce Still-at-Home Son in Screwball Comedy

35 year-old Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) is a confirmed bachelor with no plans for marriage. That doesn’t bother his parents as much as the fact that the he still lives at home, rent-free, with no interest in cutting the umbilical, despite a successful career as a pleasure craft broker. Meanwhile his mother, Sue (Kathy Bates), is getting fed up with waiting on him hand-and-foot, and his father, Al (Terry Bradshaw), a closet nudist, is just itching to be free to roam around the house naked.

It doesn’t help matters any that Tripp’s two best friends, Ace (Justin Bartha) and Demo (Bradley Cooper), are similarly-situated adultescents who share his immature inability to overcome inertia. As members of the so-called Boomerang Generation, they, too, are quite content mooching off their parents for room and board with no intention of ever leaving the nest.

Fortunately for Sue and Al, help is available in the person of Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker). Paula’s an irresistibly attractive consultant who has carved out her niche by putting her womanly wiles to work coaxing reluctant men out of their childhood homes. So, they retain the gorgeous gal’s services to seduce Tripp, but with the strict understanding, of course, that she’ll stop short of sleeping with him. This improbable point of departure jumpstarts Failure to Launch, a wacky, well-crafted romantic comedy which unfolds like a cross between Hitch and Meet the Parents. Provided you’re able to swallow this picture’s silly premise, you’re likely to enjoy the assorted screwball antics up on the screen.

Predictably, Paula’s professionalism goes out the window when she finds herself falling in love with the handsome hunk she’s been hired to date, much to the chagrin of her impatient clients’. However, as this exercise in the obvious winds its way to happily-ever-aftersville, we’re treated to a ton of laughs, most of which come courtesy of a stellar cast of colorful supporting characters.

In fact, Zooey Deschanel steals so many scenes as Paula’s anti-social roommate that she deserves to share top billing alongside stars McConaughey and Parker. The emerging ingénue adopts a flat affect, delivering line-after-line with perfect timing, playing a blasé misanthrope irreversibly at odds with the entire world.

For instance, here’s how Kit bluntly explains her decision not to join her colleagues at TGI Fridays for Happy Hour: “I don’t like that place, or anybody I work with.” And when Paula asks Kit whether she’s interested in either of Tripp’s buddies, she responds sarcastically, “How shall I choose?” after pointing out that one just got fired from Kinko’s while the other is gainfully employed.

When not indulging Kit’s sublime sense of humor, Failure to Launch tends to trade in decidedly less cerebral fare, whether it’s Terry Bradshaw romping around in his birthday suit, or an anthropomorphic animal sketch featuring a mockingbird, a dog, a chipmunk, a lizard, or a porpoise. These momentary distractions don’t diminish one’s ability to enjoy a generally sophisticated endeavor which succeeds at poking fun at a supposed trend which threatens to turn into a full-blown social phenomenon.

Oh, and there’s a gushy love story in there as well.

Excellent (3.5 stars)