Deniro, Pacino, Brando and now Bradhaw. That’s NFL hall of Famer, Fox TV broadcaster Terry Bradshaw my friends. Mr. Bradshaw proves to be the thespian of life in Paramount Pictures ‘Failure to Launch’, a film starring Matthew McConaughey that centers around a 35 year old man who still lives with his parents, and has no intentions of leaving.
In the pantheon of the genre of romantic comedies, they are what they are. Do we have a handsome, easygoing, breezy male lead? McConaughey, John Cusack, Orlando Bloom… any one will do. Check! Do we have an attractive, slightly neurotic, tightly wound female lead? Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts? Check! Does she have borderline slutty girl friends? Check! Does HE have well meaning, screwed up friends who muck everything up only to set it right in the end? Check! We now have everything we need to greenlight a rom-com. We’ll worry about a script later.
So, these things being what they are, how does this one shake out? Mr. Mconaughey was literally born for these roles, since he does do quite a few of them. He seems perpetually tanned, obviously works out a lot, comes equipped with a disarming country smile, has the whitest teeth this side of Lauren Hill and looks like a fun dude to hang out with. As slacker Tripp (with no last name that I know of) he handles the role so effortlessly it’s almost as if he didn’t even have to act it out. Sarah Jessica Parker plays a woman hired by Tripp’s parents to be his girlfriend, and thus give him incentive to fly the coop. She too is perpetually tanned, works a lot and his very white teeth. However, I’m not quite sold on her ability as a leading lady, and her performance in this movie didn’t help. Not that the character needs much depth, since it is a romantic comedy and all, but it didn’t seem as if what little there may have been was effectively brought across by the actress. More at fault may be the fact the
character was grossly underwritten and the fact that they saved all the good stuff for Zooey Deschanel (sister of actress Emily Deschanel. Neither of these young ladies is anywhere close to being perpetually tanned) who plays her dry witted, pathologically violent, borderline slutty roommate. What happens next? I don’t want to give anything away, but she falls for the client, he finds out his parents hired her, he gets pissed, she gets sad, they split apart, they get back together. Oh yeah, spoilers. My bad. In between rom-com cliché’s are some very funny over top moments, mostly involving crazed wildlife and, of course, Terry Bradshaw. Terry along with Kathy Bates plays Tripp’s parents, and you would think having to act across academy winner, and genuine great actress Ms. Bates might be intimidating for the former football player. Man, dude has won four Super-Bowls! You can’t intimidate T.B.! All kidding aside, Terry Bradshaw is very funny as the beleaguered dad and considering his last movie role was in 1981’s Cannonball run. I can understand why it took him 25 years to act in another film.
So if your girl insist on dragging you to a romantic comedy, this one ain’t so bad. And it has Terry Bradshaw in it.
Buds Opinion: I am not a fan of the “romantic comedy” genre of films. In recent years, this category of movies has become obsessed with unrealistic romantic expectations for their characters, and Failure to Launch falls squarely into this trap. In the aptly-named Failure, we have the quintessential slacker named Trip (McConaughey, a 35-year-old man who still lives at home with his parents, with his mother a servant and maid, and his father a coddling punching-bag). But he’s also a player, romancing women left and right without fear of commitment, and then breaking up with them by setting them up to be caught in bed with him by his parents. One of Tripp’s lines is “It’ll take a stick of dynamite to get me to move out of my parents’ house”, and so his parents (Bates and Bradshaw) go looking for just that stick of dynamite. And what they come up with is the Paula (Parker), the quintessential manipulative female, except that this manipulative female manipulates for a living. She is a self-proclaimed relationship expert who makes her living romancing men into growing up. Basically, she gets paid to make men fall in love with her, and then move out of their parents’ house.
The movie is basically about Paula deceiving, manipulating, fabricating, and flat-lying to Trip, to cajole him into moving out of his parents’ house. Paula is using him to make a quick buck, but secretly she’s falling for him too. Meanwhile, Trip continues his playa-ways, setting Paula up for the big break-up scene in the parents’ house.
Let me get this straight: are we really supposed to be rooting for these two pathetic, false, fake, and fraudulent individuals to get together? Now that we know that Trip is a useless turd-of-a-man, are we really supposed to hope that he ends up happy? And now that we know that Paula is a manipulative bitch, do we really think that Trip would be better off getting together with her? Man, only the most helplessly-romantic individual would go for this. Oh, and all of them take the higher moral ground, but their sorry excuse-making makes it even more frustrating. The only rewarding scenes involving Trip are the ones where he is involved in accidents: it seems that Trip gets bit by chuckling critters … a lot, and in Caddyshack-like ways, which are pretty funny if you like that sort of thing. But that’s hardly the basis for a romantic comedy.
Oh, but there is actually a viable romantic-comedic relationship in the movie, it’s just not the one between Trip and Paula. But Paula’s roommate Kit (Zooey Deschanel) gets together with Trip’s buddy Ace (Justin Bartha). Kit is an interesting character: a dominating personality who finds herself alone, except for a mockingbird. She mutters to herself, and mocks the film as an aside, and the script rewards her with a romantic subplot.
There is one very pleasant surprise in Failure: it actually has some terrifically-funny moments, and most of these moments come from the supporting characters. Zooey’s Kit character, or Trip’s frequently-nude father Terry Bradshaw are both extremely funny, without being over-the-top. Whenever the ancillary characters are on screen, the movie’s good for a laugh. And thank goodness for that, because there’s not much else in this movie to be enjoyed.