Failure to Launch review by Mike Long

While romantic comedies certainly aren't my favorite genre, I do have some theories about them. I would like to present the argument that the modern romantic comedy springs from two sources -- 1990's Pretty Woman and 1998's There's Something About Mary. Pretty Woman, with its "hooker with a heart of gold meets rich Mr. Right" story introduced the idea that romance can blossom even under the most unrealistic of circumstances. Meanwhile, There's Something About Mary convinced Hollywood that audiences (both male and female) would see a romantic comedy filled with bizarre characters and odd situations. And thus, the fallout from these films has filled movie house ever since. The recently released Failure to Launch certainly continues this tradition as it mines the contents of the modern romantic comedy to a T.

Failure to Launch tells the story of Tripp (Matthew McConaughey), a successful thirty-something boat broker who drives a Porsche and dates beautiful women. Tripp seems to have it all. The only odd thing about him is that he still lives with his parents, Al (Terry Bradshaw) and Sue (Kathy Bates). His best friends, Ace (Justin Bartha) and Demo (Bradley Cooper), also still live at home, so Tripp doesn't see it as an anomaly. Actually, he uses this idiosyncrasy as a way to break up with women -- as most find this situation to be odd. However, Al and Sue are desperate to get Tripp out of the house, so they hire Paula (Sara Jessica Parker), a motivational expert, to help them. Paula's plan is to become romantically involved with Tripp and she will then lead him through the steps to mature and be ready to move out. But, Paula never planned to fall in love with Tripp.

Again, Failure to Launch perfectly follows the formulas laid out by modern romantic comedies -- unlikely couple meets, an attraction begins, then trouble begins to brew. Meanwhile, the supporting cast is filled with quirky characters. In this sense, Failure to Launch plays like two movies in one -- we have the movie featuring the relationship between Tripp and Paula and then there is the other movie which involves the supporting characters. In theory, the story with Tripp and Paula is supposed to hold our attention and remain at the forefront, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) this isn't the case.

The plot device concerning the fact that Tripp still lives at home is unique and gives Failure to Launch some promise, but this is really the only distinctive aspect of the main story. The relationship between Tripp and Paula follows a recognizable pattern. They meet, flirt, and when things start to get serious, something comes between them. Actually, screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember appear to be in on the joke as well, as part of Paula's plan assumes that her relationship with Tripp will follow a pre-destined pattern. (And this idea is pretty funny.) Still, the movie sags when the story focuses exclusively on Tripp and Paula.

On the other hand, the supporting characters in the film really crackle. Zooey Deschanel plays Paula's roommate, Kit, a depressed, spiteful alcoholic who is plagued by a mockingbird. (I'm not making that up.) The scene where she visits a gun store in order to purchase a rifle to solve her bird problem is priceless. There are also some funny moments involving Ace and Demo, especially when Demo finds himself attracted to Ace. Probably the most surprising aspect of the film are the performances of Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw. Bates has shown a comedic streak before, but she's relaxed and funny here. But, it's Bradshaw, who's incredibly annoying on his FOX NFL show, who proves to be a comedy natural and has the funniest line in the film. When any of these characters is on-screen, Failure to Launch takes on a totally different tone and becomes much more interesting. At times, it seems as if the makers of the movie share this view, as the movie will shift away from Paula and Tripp for very long spells in order to focus on the shenanigans of these "minor" characters.

Failure to Launch is an odd bird (no pun intended). In one sense, it appears to be a standard Hollywood romantic comedy which attempts to trade on its stars. This may have been a mistake as Parker seems out of place as the "gorgeous" girl and McConaughey acts as if he's never seen the script. In another way, the movie just quirky enough to be interesting...and contains the most wild animals attacks that I've ever seen in a comedy. I would understand if this movie didn't sound like a true winner, but it shouldn't fail to launch you to the video store for a rental.

Failure to Launch sails onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate versions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For the most part, the image looks OK, but I noticed an unusual amount of artifacting on this transfer. It's rare that a new movie looks as cloudy as Failure to Launch did. Still, the image is free from grain or defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the brightness is acceptable. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the surround effects during a baseball game scene and a scene involving the mockingbird are fine. As with many comedies, there wasn't a great deal of subwoofer action.

Considering the fact that Failure to Launch was a minor hit, the DVD doesn't contain many extras. "Casting Off: The Making of Failure to Launch" (12 minutes) is your standard featurette, as it offers comments from the cast and crew and some behind-the-scenes footage. "The Failure to Launch Phenomenon" (11 minutes) has interviews with real-life men who still live at home and contains comments from experts. "Dating in the New Millennium" (7 minutes) explores concepts such as group dating and on-line dating. " Unscripted with Matthew and Terry" (14 minutes) is a very loose segment in which Matthew McConaughey and Terry Bradshaw interview one another. The extras are rounded out by the trailer for Failure to Launch, letterboxed at 1.78:1.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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