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Failure to Launch

Failure to Launch (2006) suffers from the same problem that plagues entirely too many romantic comedies: The supporting characters are roughly 1,000 percent more interesting than the main characters. It's not like Failure's main characters aren't caught up in an interesting, or at least wacky, situation. Trip (Matthew McConaughey) enjoys a twentysomething's dream life. He's a Porsche-driving yacht-broker who's boiled his days down to the essentials: yoga, speed-seduction, climbing rocks with his weekend-warrior pals (Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper), and cultivating weirdly perfect chin-stubble. There's one problem: Trip is 35. And for reasons unexplained, he still lives with his parents (Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates). And they really, really want him to leave. Thus, Trip's folks take the advice of other recent empty-nesters and hire a "professional interventionist" named Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker). For a fee, Paula will employ a speed-seduction plan of her own — chastely dating a man and building his confidence until he's inspired to get his own place. (Presumably, she dumps him as soon as the parents finish filling his room with hunting trophies.) Is it a spoiler to reveal that Trip proves an especially wily and challenging client? Or that Paula has trouble keeping her growing feelings for Trip at a professional arm's-length? In theory, these are a couple of nicely weird characters, and delving into the collision of their twisted psyches might have made for a smart, mildly trenchant rom-com. How does an outwardly well-adjusted (if slightly over-oiled) male justify sponging off his folks for so long? And what sort of woman invents, designs, and then carries out such a brazen feat of emotional manipulation while juggling multiple clients — without having sex with any of them? Unfortunately, other than offering a couple of glib, single-scene explanations, director Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon) and writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember aren't interested in exploring what makes their leads tick. In fact, they seem far more interested in staging several scenes of painfully unfunny slapstick in which Trip's attacked by dolphins and squirrels because his life "is fundamentally at odds with the natural world." Which leaves McConaughey and Parker to coast through the film on the bland Everybabe personas they already created for their other "paycheck" films — they might as well be playing bank tellers. Which leaves the supporting characters to scamper off with the movie. Who knew, for example, that a barn-broad TV jock like Terry Bradshaw would be the chocolate to Kathy Bates's peanut butter? It's less surprising that Zooey Deschanel is hilariously deadpan as a surly Bud Light addict. She bonds with Bartha as they try to maim the endangered woodpecker who's wrecking her sleep. In the unlikely event that this Failure merits a sequel, can she move in with Trip's parents? Paramount's DVD release of Failure to Launch offers a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Extras include "Casting Off: The Making of Failure To Launch" (11 min.), "The Failure To Launch Phenomenon" (11 min.), "Dating in the New Millennium" (7 min.), a "Moviefone.com Unscripted Interview with Matthew and Terry" (13 min.), and a look at a studio promotional contest (6 min.). Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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