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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