Failure To Launch

March, 2006, Comedy

Directed by:Tom Dey

Starring:Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Bates, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, and Terry Bradshaw

Failure To Launch

He's 36, a bit over six feet tall, with just a trace of lazy, small-town Texas drawl in his voice; she's a handful of years his senior, two-third's of a foot shorter and sports the manicured style of someone who's spent life oscillating between Manhattan's East Side and The Hamptons. No, I'm not talking about characters in this fitfully amusing romantic comedy, just the actors playing them. Matthew McConaughey & Sarah Jessica Parker seem to come from separate planets and their lack of on-screen chemistry comes close to completely sinking director Tom Dey's intermittently humorous film about an over-age slacker and the relentlessly cute woman who coaxes him out of delayed adolescence into movie maturity. It requires the presence of a sparkling supporting character to provide the slim vitality Launch brings to theaters.

McConaughey plays Trip, a broker of high-end yachts whose bachelor life-style is conducted from home - - literally. He bunks with his Mom, (Kathy Bates) and Dad, (Terry Bradshaw) in their spacious and comfortable manse somewhere close to Chesapeake Bay. They're anxious to empty the nest; he loves the fact that he can end relationships with his marriage-minded girl friends by taking them home to meet his landlords. In a plot device reminiscent of Will Smith's Hitch, help comes in the form of "relationship advisor" Parker who, for a fee, promises to seduce Trip into leaving home. (In the la-la land of Hollywood romances of course, it seems perfectly understandable that a woman with no professional training or visible means of communicating her unique specialty could lay claim to an uninterrupted track record of success in this rather narrow field of psychological manipulation.) 

True love triumphs of course, but not before various & sundry plot distractions that are provided by Trip's odd-ball buddies, his totally specious 8 year-old African-American "nephew" and Parker's roommate Kit, a mordant realist capable of skewering everyone who crosses her path. (She's played by Zooey Deschanel, a twenty-something actress who steals every scene she's in.)  By the final reel, Trip's bound and gagged, Parker's professing undying love and Dad's rediscovering his inner child - - all before the obligatory sail into the sunset. Launch is nothing if not reliably predictable. 

Fluff like this only works when its leads can create the illusion that their on-screen affection springs from something real. Parker's artfully constructed screen presence just doesn't work when juxtaposed with McConaughey's laid-back machismo - - he's a little bit country, she's just the character she played in Sex & The City. When she's allowed to satirize her own persona, (The Family Stone) she's really interesting; here that cloying-but-sophisticated sparkle looks manufactured.

Given the box-office success of McConaughey's recent efforts in this genre, (The Wedding Planner, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) this one's sure to earn enough to cover its costs … which means we'll be subjected to more just like it in the future. What a mind-numbing thought.  

Jake's Takes comments powered by Disqus