Paramount // 2006 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // April 20th, 2007
To leave the nest, some men just need a little push.
Upon first glance of the back of this case, I thought Stephen Holden's quote said that "McConaughey and Parker are well matched...the movie is witty and romantically CHALLENGED." Turns out it says charged instead, indicating some form of chemistry or cinematic allure. Does Failure to Launch have all of this and more, and is it worth adding to the queue?
Written by Tom Astle and Matt Ember (Get Smart), and directed by Tom Dey (Showtime), Tripp (Matthew McConaughey, Dazed and Confused) drives a Porsche and spends a lot of time outdoors with his friends Ace (Justin Bartha, National Treasure) and Demo (Bradley Cooper, Wedding Crashers). He also lives with his parents Al (Terry Bradshaw, Cannonball Run) and Sue (Kathy Bates, About Schmidt). Al and Sue are starting to grow tired of him though and want to live out their days together, so they hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker, The Family Stone) to start dating Tripp, with the hope that if the relationship pans out, Tripp will have gained the self-confidence he needs to move out of the house and start his life. Things get complicated, of course, when Paula starts to fall for Tripp. How will things pan out for the film and the global war on terror in the next 96 minutes?
It's funny that there's a growing group of people that wonder if McConaughey lives the life of his most famous character, Dave Wooderson. And I think that in Failure to Launch, he gets as close as he's gotten to date. He has no responsibility, enjoys doing a lot of cool stuff like eating crabs powdered in Old Bay seasoning, or sailing on pretty elaborate boats. Even though Wooderson may sound a little like Pauly Shore at times, he's a nice enough guy in this role. In this film, it's a little bit funny though, as McConaughey is supposed to leave his Mom and Dad, yet he innocently falls in love with someone who's old enough to be his mother.
The film itself has so many telegraphed moments in it that it's not even funny. The first act ends around the half-hour mark and the second around the hour mark; each ends with an interesting situation designed to advance a character. OK, I maybe made that last part up, since the characters are pretty boring. Even the stuff that's designed to either bring an uproarious laugh or tug at the heartstrings does neither. Bates showed her behind in About Schmidt, so Bradshaw shows his in this film. In high definition, you could almost make out the injection spots from the cortisone during his pro football playing days, but otherwise, it's enough to put someone off dairy for quite awhile. Bates is charming enough as a rule, but in this film, she seems to occasionally channel the spirit of Bobby Boucher's mom in The Waterboy, while otherwise wondering what she's doing in this film.
Speaking of people who are a little bit out of place, Parker is becoming the Ralph Macchio of the romantic comedy genre. She just turned 40, trying to play someone a decade younger, but has hands that look two decades older than that. In the "best friend" role is Zooey Deschanel, who was 26 when this film came out, and to see Parker next to Deschanel is to see fresh oranges sitting next to ones that have been out for a few months. It's increasingly clear when you watch this film that someone younger was lined up to play the part of Paula (maybe a Rachael McAdams type), but they were busy doing challenging stuff and passed. As for McConaughey, I'm sure the paycheck helps to subsidize another couple of trips to Africa for him, so in this case, I'm more interested in what he did with the money than what he did on the film itself.
In terms of transfers, this 1080p MPEG-2 encoded transfer really doesn't add much in the way of general enjoyment. The grain is prevalent through most of the film, but the problem in the presentation is that the number of scenes that illustrate the depth and detail on Blu-ray are scarce. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also a disappointment too, with scenes of music that don't pan through to other speakers, and a movie so light in sonic dynamics your subwoofer will have a little lie down. All in all, it makes me wonder why it's another release on both platforms. Wait, I can figure that out: if someone who paid several hundred dollars for a Blu-ray player can suggest watching this on Blu-ray or HD-DVD to their better half, it'll be a perfect excuse when they go and get Superman Returns or something else down the road. I get it now. The extras come over from the standard definition version and, on a side note, the menus are problematic to negotiate. You can highlight the extra or the section of the disc and hit enter, but you can't see what you've selected until you hit "Enter." So the apathy is pervasive in the production of the disc, too. Terrific.
I've got to share some local, or more accurately regional, concern here. It was nice to see this film filmed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as it's someplace that Mrs. Keefer and I frequent a bit. As the film went on, though, the location changed more and more to the New Orleans area. Now that's fine and good, but at least take some time and pay some attention to detail to make it a little more seamless. Seeing Louisiana signs on the baseball field, in the house, and the boats make it seem like no one cares. And when the viewer is spending more time figuring out when the location changes than on the actual film itself, what does that tell you?
Like the wife of Judge David Johnson, you're probably better off seeing How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, or spending your time writing the Great American Novel. As it stands, this movie is as pointless, humorless, and tired as they come, and I hope that the studios realize that the romcom genre is dying on the vine from the drought of real invigoration or creativity. Get back to the drawing board and put together something decent and I'm sure people will go see or rent it. They should do neither here.
Guilty as charged. Those involved with the production should spend the time living with their parents until they realize that films like this are a waste of time and money.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* "Casting Off: The Making of Failure to Launch"
* "The Failure to Launch Phenomenon"
* "Dating in the New Millennium"
* Moviefone.com Unscripted with Matthew McConaughey and Terry Bradshaw
* The Failure to Launch Contest
* Official Site