March 16, 2006

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Failure to Launch (PG-13)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

Matthew McConaughey plays a man seriously unwilling to make his own bed in the aptly named romantic comedy Failure to Launch. As with all romantic comedies based on a conflict that requires a lot of sneaky silly capering, the central problem of Failure to Launch — that a fully capable man pushing 40 is unwilling to move out of his parents’ home — could be solved by a simple conversation, one in which Al (Terry Bradshaw) and Sue (Kathy Bates) politely but firmly tell their son Trip (McConaughey) to leave. Ha-HA! Do that, however, and you have no movie, so onward ho with the overly complicated caper to get Trip to vacate the nest!

And that’s where Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes in. She’s a professional motivator. Hired by Al and Sue, Paula’s job is to win Trip over and then help him build the confidence to move out. Sue tries to point out that plenty of girls have kept Trip’s confidence pretty freakin’ high but no matter, Paula’s sure her special brand of hair flipping and sex-denying will get Trip on the road to independence. The problem comes, cue the upbeat alt-rock, when Paula begins to realize that in simulating affection she actually begins to feel some. McConaughey, despite looking a little rough around the edges (or perhaps because of the slight image-fraying), is still quite the handsome man and Parker has that outgoing yet timid sexuality thing (oh, so tender underneath the sass!) all tied up even though it started looking haggard on Carrie Bradshaw sometime during season one. But frankly, these people are boring. They will enchant each other; the music will swell when they finally realize their love for each other. Ho-hum.

Let us turn our attention to the supporting characters — to Trip’s friends, the travel bum Demo (Bradley Cooper, looking every bit the irresistible cad chef from Kitchen Confidential) and Ace (Justin Bartha), a computer geek who is actually quite wealthy and a great bit savvier than the less nerdy Trip or Ace. And, especially, let us watch the magnificent bitterness of Kit (Zooey Deschanel), Paula’s roommate, or rather, Paula’s acerbic roommate who slowly goes mad because of the non-stop singing of a mocking bird outside her window. She holds Champagne Thursdays, bottle for one (which sometimes also occur on Fridays), and she boozily answers the chirping of the bird with a string of fantastic insults. She is frequently dragged along on Paula’s outings with Trip (occasionally with a six-pack of beer, for herself only) and participates in the most minimal way possible and spends most of her time with a look of permanent annoyance on her face (annoyance that she’ll blissfully vocalize with a well placed insult). She wears a stylish but appropriately odd collection of thrift store finds and sports Betty Page black hair and bright red lips. She is, in short, awesome and completely worthy of her own damn movie, one in which she and Demo and Ace embark on some sort of slacker crusade and a love triangle ensues made up of awkward sexual encounters and clumsy kisses which ends in true love for a couple that only talks about their feelings when they are drunk and not actually looking each other in the eye. Now that’s a romantic comedy I’d pay to see again and again.

But sadly, there isn’t enough of Kit or Ace and Demo in this film, just endless, bland-as-a-Gap-commercial scenes of the modelesque McConaughey and Parker pretending the laws of nature won’t eventually demand that they breed. D

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