Dir: Tom Dey. US. 2006. 92mins.
Verging on the preposterous, Tom Dey'sFailure ToLaunch relies on attractive stars to overcome its lacklustreexecution. Opening on March10 in the US - and later in the month throughout Europe - it seeks to capitalise on the success of other recent date movies that useda lover-with-a-hidden-agenda plotline such as Hitch (which brought in $179m domestically and another $188minternationally) and How To Lose A Guy In10 Days (which also starred Matthew McConaugheyand collected $105m domestically and $71m internationally).
With few otherstudio romantic comedies crowding the market, Failure To Launch will have full reign over its core audience, but mediocreword-of-mouth might hurt it in the States and elsewhere. Nonetheless, it shouldremain a strong rental for those wanting to spend an evening at home.
Stuck inperpetual adolescence, thirtysomething Tripp (McConaughey) refuses to date any woman looking for acommitment and prefers living with his parents (Bates and Bradshaw). Decidingthat Tripp needs to grow up and finally move out, his folks secretly hire Paula(Parker), an unconventional, all-business interventionist who tricks men intofalling in love with her so that she can convince them to vacate their parents'premises. But once she starts dating the unsuspecting Tripp, Paula developsgenuine feelings.
Classic Hollywood love stories such as The Shop Around The Corner and Pillow Talk have often involvedmisunderstandings and ulterior motives, but FailureTo Launch lacks the comic buoyancy necessary for its story machinations toseem charming.
Rather than floating on air, the movie creaks along as directorTom Dey perfunctorily hits all the expected storybeats and relies on tedious physical humour (ofteninvolving animals attacking humans) instead of clever situations or wittyrepartee for laughs.
Trapped playing archetypes instead of characters - he's thecarefree playboy, she's the sophisticated manipulator - Parker and McConaughey mostly coast on their looks. It'sparticularly disappointing that Parker, who delivered a winning portrayal ofthe prickly fiancee in The Family Stone,is unable to fully demonstrate her decent dramatic range.
Despite theirunderwritten parts, the two leads do have an easy chemistry in their scenestogether, especially early on when their courtship begins to flourish.
Ultimately,though, audience goodwill toward these appealing actors can't compensate forTom J Astle and Matt Ember's farfetched script. Theconceit that a gorgeous woman could earn a living by fooling men into movingaway from home (and that she could somehow manage to extricate herself fromthese relationships afterward without them ever finding out) never seemscredible.
While it's notsurprising that Paula's ruse falls apart halfway through the film, it is astoundingthat her unusual career has been successful up to this point since she does allher business in the same city.
Ironically, themore interesting love story in Failure To Launch concerns two friends of Tripp and Paula(played by Zooey Deschaneland Justin Bartha) that has a quirky impulsiveness toit that feels natural. For shame then that little of that romantic spirit makesit way into the main narrative.
As the moviesettles into a dull competence, the film-makers ask so little of the cast andthe viewer that this meagre romantic comedy reducesthe complexities and joys of love to a studio formula that can be recognised a mile off. Much like Paula, Failure To Launchpretends to have pure intentions, but there's a lot of calculation at the core.
Tom J Astle
Sarah Jessica Parker