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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Failure to Launch

One thing I always promised the Chapmans when I agreed to link my blog to the website at the Essex Cinemas was that I could find something nice to say about any movie. It took me two boxes of Milk Duds and A gi-normous Diet Pepsi to absorb the natural goodness of Failure to Launch, but I think I’ve cracked the code.

First, let me just ask: What in the world were the producers of Failure to Launch thinking? I mean really… what is up with putting Matthew McConaughey, People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man of the Year 2006” together with Sarah Jessica Parker in a romantic comedy. Let’s face it. You’ve thought it, but nobody wants to say it out loud, but it is time to put aside politeness and just say what everybody is thinking. Sarah
has a face perfect for radio. Okay, okay, so she starred for years on Sex and the City on tv, but at least we saw her on a small screen. On a thirty foot movie screen her equine equivalent to a human face can have a frightening effect on the average movie-goer. Small children weep, plants wither, and the rest of us can’t help but think that this is the woman Ferris Bueller chose to bear his baby.

I know it is harsh, but it is time to come out of the closet and quit being so overly courteous when so many could be hurt by gazing on her visage without protection. Yes, Sarah J was fine in The Family Stone a few months back, but that was because she was paired with Dermot Mulroney. No offense to Mr. Mulroney but he is not Matthew McConaughey in the beauty department and so it is easier to believe you would find them together than it is to see Sarah and Matthew in love.

Matthew is a rugged country boy, muscular, tan and lean. He looks like he belongs on a farm, hot and sweaty, half-naked as he pitches hay to the horses. He doesn’t look like he should be dating one of them, but that is the premise of Failure to Launch.

McConaughey (Sahara; How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) plays 35 year old yacht broker Tripp, who still lives at home with his parents, Sue and Al, played quite well by Kathy Bates (Misery; About Schmidt) and Terry Bradshaw (Cannonball Run; Hooper). They love their son but are naturally frustrated that they still have him living with them at a time when they expected more privacy and freedom. After hearing about a scheme from friends of theirs, Sue and Al hire Paula (Sarah Jessica, of course), a young woman whose unusual job is to “accidentally” meet men, date
them, lead them on, and then lure them out of their parents’ homes and into independence before dumping them once they are living on their own.

The plan goes along smoothly at first as Paula and Tripp click from the get-go, and several successful dates follow. Of course Matthew/Tripp is thrilled. After all, Sarah/Paula is a cheap date. A couple of bags of carrots and some sugar cubes and she is set for the night. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. I apologize. Back to the plot…

It’s Paula’s oddball roommate, Kit (scene-stealer Zooey Deschanel; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Good Girl), who first notices that something is awry. She questions Paula about her growing feelings for Tripp, but Paula insists everything is strictly business. Of course, we, the
audience, know better as this is a romantic comedy. Before you know it Paula is swooning over Tripp and ready to confess all to her unwitting “client.” Unfortunately, complications arise as Tripp’s best friend, Ace, aka Phillip, (adorable Justin Bartha) uncovers Paula’s real identity and shares his news with Demo (Bradley Cooper), Tripp’s other best friend. Naturally, Tripp finds out about the charade before Paula can confess and then the hijinks turn to Ace, Demo, Kit, Al, and Sue to reconcile the estranged couple before the final credits role.

The supporting cast is especially funny in Failure to Launch and should get the lion’s share of credit for what makes this movie as funny as it is. As good an actor as both McConaughey and Parker can be, neither has any chemistry together and their scenes are the most lackluster of the film. Bates and Bradshaw could warrant a sequel of their own just on the merits of their small roles. Bradshaw, in particular, bares his all to prove just how far he will go for a laugh. But the real gems of the movie are Tripp’s friends Ace and Demo and Deschanel’s Kit. They seem to be having real fun in their roles and brighten the screen whenever they are present.

It’s ironic that the title of the film is Failure to Launch because that pretty much sums up what happens to the fireworks one hopes would be generated by Parker and McConaughey. Putting them aside, however, the movie has some great bits and pieces patched together by the other players of the company. Basically, if you can get your fill from a plate of hors d'oeuvres rather than insist on a full entrée then you’ll find Failure to Launch a satisfying treat.

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