Failure to Launch (PG-13) ★★½

Review Date: March 10th, 2006

Failure to Launch thankfully doesn’t live up to its title. Bolstered by some quirky performances, it actually takes off in a surprisingly engaging way.


Despite seemingly having it all, hunky Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) has still never been able to leave the nest. It’s actually easy to see why. It’s free and his mother (Kathy Bates) dotes on him. But Tripp’s parents, especially gregarious dad (Terry Bradshaw), are anxious to get him out of the house so they can have their own lives. That’s where Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes in: a professional consultant who works specifically with fed-up parents who want their adult sons to move out. She dates them, convinces them its time to fly the coop and then lets them go. It’s mostly foolproof--but not in Tripp’s case. No, this is different because Paula starts to have feelings (Can you blame her? Just look at the guy), jeopardizing not only her job but the fact she may have found the perfect guy. OK, Launch seems contrived but give it a chance; it might grow on you.


As with any romantic comedy, it’s about watching two attractive people--in this case, McConaughey and Parker--spar and connect. Well, at least most of the time. But there’s another trend in rom-coms these days: wonderfully original supporting characters who add color and can oftentimes steal the show, all while allowing the main characters to shine beyond the standard girl-meets-boy scenario. Tripp’s two best friends, Demo and Ace--played by Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure), respectively--are a real hoot. As is Zooey Deschanel (Elf), Paula’s anti-social, bird-hating roommate, Kit (great name, by the way); she nearly steals Parker’s thunder, especially when she and Bartha’s Ace hook up. Also delightful are Bates and Bradshaw as Tripp’s patient parents, itching to break free. Who knew an Oscar-winning actress and former Super Bowl champ could have chemistry?


Under the direction of Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon), Failure to Launch isn’t the end all be all of romantic comedies, but it does take delight in some of its idiosyncratic approaches towards the genre. For example, the womanizing Tripp may seem to have a devil-may-care attitude about his living situation, but he’s really has some deeper issues going on. And Paula’s job--it seems a bit mean-spirited, don’t you think? She leads these poor guys on and then once they leave the house, dumps them. So, in a way, she gets her due. Of course, Dey’s attention to the side characters also gives the film a big boost. He probably learned a lesson or two from watching Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Ultimately, in what you’d think might be another stale rom-com, Launch surprises you with its wry humor and multi-layered performances.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.