Review by Paul Stathakis | 2006

Failure to communicate

You know a movie is doomed when one of the central characters performs CPR not on a human but on a mockingbird.  Believe it or not, such an absurd scene surfaces in the romantic comedy “Failure to Launch.”  As for the mockingbird, it regains consciousness, bites the nose of the person who just saved it, and then flies away unharmed.   With the exception of the two or three people whose giggles echoed throughout the theatre, I sat wondering just who would find this humor to be very appealing?

Matthew McConaughey stars as Trip, a 35 year-old ladies man who still lives at home with his parents.  We learn this early on in the movie whenTrip brings home a date and his father (Terry Bradshaw) walks in on them as they are sharing an intimate moment.

Kathy Bates stars as Trip’s bighearted mother Sue who, after many years, wants her son to finally move out and live on his own.  To accomplish her mission, Sue hires a gorgeous woman named Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) who claims she will be able to have Trip out of the house in a few weeks.  Trip’s two best friends are also adults still living under their parents’ roof.  They sit in a café and talk about the advantages of not leaving the nest.  What they don’t realize is that they are each ready for the big leap towards independence, especially Trip.

Justin Bertha, whose debut performance in “Gigli” (2003) was as funny as it was impressive, provides some comic relief as Trip’s clumsy friend here.  Bertha is one of the film’s pros, even though he is the one involved in the episode with the mockingbird.  An example of an amusing moment is when Trip, his friends, and Paula partake in a paintball competition against athree-time championship-winning team.  I don’t recall ever watching a romantic comedy where the main characters participate in such a game.  Something original in “Failure to Launch”?  Absolutely.  And, Parker is most charming when she celebrates victory on the playing field.

Many scenes work in “Failure to Launch” but since they can be counted on one hand, I will not urge you to see this film until it is available for rental.  Terry Bradshaw in the role of Trip’s father Al is not very credible.  He tries to win laughs by appearing naked towards the end of the movie.  How many actors have attempted to gain laughs by emerging bare on the big screen?  Will Ferrell, Jack Nicholson, the list is almost endless.  The tactic is old and not funny anymore.  How about Kathy Bates?  From “Misery” (1990) to “Failure to Launch”, Bates affirms that comedy is not her gift.  Her specialty has always been drama.

Matthew McConaughey is a good actor but his talent is lost in “Failure to Launch.”  McConaughey’s acting abilities are not put to the test here.  However, he does shine in a scene where he delivers a speech at the diner table.  As for Sarah Jessica Parker, her appearance is stunning as McConaughey’s love interest.  While Parker has the right look and charm for this role, we sense that anyone with blue eyes and blonde hair could’ve easily acted out this part.

There are a lot of big names in “Failure to Launch” that don’t do much.  The movie contains a mountain of clichés and presence of the actors is rarely felt because each is trapped in a comedy that fails to communicate anything revitalizing to those watching.

I wanted the laughs to be constant when they were not.  I wanted to believe the love story between the main actors but felt no chemistry between them.  I wanted to enjoy this comedy but couldn’t escape the fact that this film had been done many times before. I kept trying to think of all the titles it borrowed from and how they got it right.


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