Failure to Launch

  Failure to Launch
"Careful ... this is how Hannibal got started."

© 2006, Paramount Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Trip (Matthew McConaughey) is a single, successful heartbreaker who also happens to be a 35 year-old man still living at home with his devoted parents (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw). Feeling the urge to push him out into the world, Mom and Dad hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), a relationship expert who, for the right price, will woo and encourage her targets to embrace life on their own. Trouble is, Paula starts to fall in love with Trip at the same time he catches onto the hoax.

Remember "Showtime?" The disgraceful 2002 Eddie Murphy/Robert DeNiro comedic disaster? Yeah, they let the guy who made that direct again. Hollywood never disappoints.

"Failure to Launch" (IMDb listing) comes from a studio that wants another "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"-size hit, but commissioned a script that has more in common with a particularly awful Benny Hill sketch. As romantic comedies go, "Launch" is one of the worst in recent memory, lazily expecting the audience to fall in love with it while the material fails to provide a single reason why anyone should care. And the poor quality of the film is not due to just the cliches that are so prevalent in the genre. It's like spitting into the wind to complain about them. This film doesn't suffer from cliches, it suffers from bad ideas.

Director Tom Dey makes about every wrong move a filmmaker can make with lighthearted material. First and foremost, his framing is too tight to allow for breathing space, and his editing rhythms are inappropriate for the desired frothy tone. "Launch," at 90 minutes, is after speed, and Dey achieves that at the expense of turning his own film into a highlight reel of genre ideas and slapstick sequences. There are enormous gaps in the story, but Dey doesn't mind, as long as there's room for pointless tangents involving Paula and Trip's sitcom-wacky friends, including Bradley Cooper, Zooey Deschanel, and Justin Bartha (I would love to have a chat with the person who told this guy he was funny). And when this material dries up, there are numerous slapstick sequences where Trip is bitten by animals, most of which are staged like outtakes from "The Flintstones."

I always thought the reason for a romantic comedy was to root for the characters. "Failure to Launch" doesn't welcome anything remotely approaching participation. On one side is Trip, whom Dey can't depict with sensitivity, and instead turns the character into a paintball-shootin', home cooking-lovin' cartoon so the people in the back row will understand that Trip is a wounded man-boy waiting for love. Performed with unusual shrillness by McConaughey, the actor overplays his hand constantly, and ends up making Trip feel like one of those slime balls who tries to sweet talk underage girls into appearing in adult films.

As for Paula, what kind of a job is that anyway? Basically she's a hooker with a master's degree, and again Dey tries to pound home some sense of vulnerability and remorse in the late moments, but those feelings cannot coexist in film with a scene that has Bartha performing CPR on a mockingbird he's shot with a BB gun, or an incident where Trip is bitten by a lizard puppet, who then laughs at his victory over man. My head hurts.

There's not a single moment to hope that Trip and Paula will find love. Not a single moment that proves so much time with the secondary characters was worth the distraction. And there's not a single moment of warmth to this production. This is a bloated SNL sketch comedy film, complete with Terry Bradshaw nudity and a cast pausing for the audience to laugh.

I never thought the day would come that such a horrible film could feature both the bottomlessly adorable and tart Deschanel and a cameo by top comic, Patton Oswalt. My friends, maybe the end is near.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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