Release Date:  March 10, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (sexual content, partial nudity and language)
Genre:  Comedy/Drama
Run Time:  97 min.
Director:  Tom Dey
Actors:  Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Bates, Terry Bradshaw, Zooey Deschanel, and Justin Bartha.

"To leave the nest, some men just need a little push" is the cute tagline from the new comedy, "Failure to Launch."  When an older couple grows sick and tired of their very grown, 35-year-old son still living in their home, they hire a pretty girl to capture his heart and trick him into leaving. 

It’s a great hook for a romantic comedy, but can the charm of this movie’s premise be sustained for 97 minutes?  Perhaps not.

The son is the handsome Trip (Matthew McConaughey), a guy who loves to party and just doesn’t see the downside of living at home with Mom (Kathy Bates) and dad (Terry Bradshaw). He and his friends – also stay-at-home party boys – spend their days rock climbing, drinking, boating, and going out with fast women for the very short term.  Trip’s rule for the moment is to drop a girl when she “gets that look” or wants to get serious suddenly.  He simply takes her home to meet the parents, knowing that the revelation of his still-living-at-home situation will turn her off and make the break-up easier. 

When he runs into Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), he has no idea that his parents have arranged the happenstance meeting, and that this girl’s profession is treating – and curing – hundreds of guys with the “failure to launch (leave the house)” issue. Her typical M.O. is to draw the typically unsuspecting nerd into her trap, seduce him, and when he’s fallen in love with her, he’ll move out. At that point, she creates a false crisis and they break up.  The guy is already out of the house, and she goes away, well paid and happy.  The only one not too happy, it seems, is her victim, the guy.

In this case, Trip immediately falls for the smooth lines of the pretty blonde, and within minutes, they’ve scheduled a date. Sure enough, Paula pulls out all the stops and charms Trip, even showing off her fast, clever wit and getting his hide out of an awkward dilemma with one of his yacht customers.  Paula does so well that Trip begins really falling for her, and she earns herself another, important date – this time to meet the friends.

Paula decides to bring her roommate, Kit (Zooey Deschanel) along for a day of paintball with the guys, and even though she’s sarcastic, deadpan, and drinks non-stop, one of Trip’s friends, Ace (Justin Bartha) falls head over heels for her.  His affections are not returned, but that’s okay because the following week he finds some leverage. He figures out Paula’s ploy, blackmails her AND tells Trip what’s going on. Now it’s up to Trip to become resourceful in concocting an elaborate payback.  His plan seems good, but it could all quickly backfire on him if he’s not extremely careful and exceptionally clever.  

“Failure to Launch” will probably do well in theatres because of its cute premise and a few great lines.  For instance, at one point Kit wants to buy a bullet to kill an irritating bird, but the guy behind the counter resists on ethical grounds. She pushes back, saying, “Hey, what about my sixth amendment rights?”  He answers, “Huh? You have the right to a speedy and public trial?”

Regrettably, though, the story feels contrived at times, and unable to sustain the cute initial premise. For example, Trip is constantly getting bitten by harmless wildlife, which his friends attribute to the unnaturalness of his life. These scenes are almost funny, but too much. There’s also a great demand for “willing suspension of disbelief” in the relationships. Would parents really subject their son to such a manipulative therapist – knowing how devastating bad break-ups can be?  Would they really not be bothered by the fact that their son was having sex with this stranger right above their bedroom? Would such a smart, smooth hunk really be living at home at 35 with no real life ambition?

Beyond these issues, perhaps the greater problem for moral-minded audiences is that “Failure to Launch” goes over the top in its portrayals of alcohol, foul language, the allusion to sex, and Kit appearing to be a functional alcoholic which is treated as quirky and cute and never rebuked. Finally, we are subjected to the naked backside of Terry Bradshaw, which most of us could have gone all year without seeing.

People want great romantic comedies and fun date movies, but “Failure to Launch” might just go down like that odd blind date you wish you'd never agreed to.

AUDIENCE:  Older teens and adults.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Rampant throughout movie. 
  • Language/Profanity:  Rampant, excessive with a couple dozen obscenities and profanities.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Plenty of sex alluded to with none explicitly shown.  Slightly veiled upper female and rear male.
  • Violence:  Mild, during paintball game and a BB gun and bird encounter.