Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper
Written by: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Comedy is hard to write and Failure to Launch proves that sentiment. It’s almost as if the production team read the text book on funny & romance and mechanically executed the instructions. The end result is a sequence of scenes that you’ll recognize as part of a romantic comedy, but are neither romantic nor comedic. For the rest of this review, I’ll do my best not to get punny with the movie title.
Failure launches with an idiot plot. By that, I mean the conflict is manufactured by the characters acting against normal, logical behavior. Think of every action movie you’ve seen where the hero is captured, but instead of being executed outright, he/she is left unattended and given the opportunity to escape. That’s a quality of an idiot plot. Slow dipping machine, anyone?
It starts with Tripp (Matthew McConaughey), a 35-year-old man still living at home with his parents (Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates). The parents obviously want Tripp out of the house, so when he brings home a girl, they do whatever they can to ruin Tripp’s fun so that he’ll think about getting his own place. The joke’s on them, of course, since Tripp only brings girls home when he’s ready to break up with them — or when he wants them to break up with him, rather. As a solution, his parents hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), a professional interventionist, to convince Tripp to leave home by dating him. It seems like a textbook romcom plot: Girl sees Boy for the wrong reasons. Girl develops genuine feelings for Boy. Boy finds out original reason Girl sees him, gets pissed and breaks up with Girl. Girl gets Boy back. Pretty standard fare, right? The problem here is that Girl would never have pursued Boy if the parents had just told her what she needed to know in the beginning. Instead, she (and we) have to find it out at the end of act 2. Lame. Seriously, does Paula really think that a man as good looking and successful as Tripp lives at home because he’s afraid to leave?
Worse yet, the main story is continually bogged down with Paula’s roommate, Kit (Zooey Deschanel), and her problem with a bird that keeps her up at night. We laboriously follow Kit through the motions of her own mini romantic comedy, but it takes up so much screen time you’ll end up wondering which is the main plot at times.
Then there’s the comedy. Apparently, getting bitten by creatures of the wild is supposed to be funny. Admittedly, it can be, but the incidents here are so random and have no context to the plot that you’ll feel like they were inserted as an afterthought, much like the character development of our leads. They both seem to have sordid pasts, but we only get a glimpse of their histories through exposition given by other characters. Absurdly, one of these moments is almost drowned out by a cheering crowd, as if the audience didn’t need to hear it!
At the end of the day, Failure to Launch is boring, lacks direction and will sap your compassion within minutes. On the other hand, it may very well be the most accurate depiction of real-life romance.