Here's reason #549 as to why American romantic comedies, way more often than not, suck rotten eggs:
Failure to Launch stars Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, a pair of movie stars who have no real chemistry and exhibit no real charm together. And there ... way in the background is someone like Zooey Deschanel. Relegated to the thankless role of Acerbic Sarcasm Machine, Zooey gets to play the best pal* to Sarah Jessica Parker and, with only a few small scenes, runs away with the entire tiresome movie. Had the movie been about the best friend character, and the ways in which she deals with the "main plot," then we might have something here. Unfortunately, Failure to Launch IS about the movie star folks, and let's just say this pair gets really obnoxious really fast.
(* Only in a movie this clueless could a character this dry and caustic be best friends with a character so materialistic and vain.)
You know how in most really lazy romantic comedies, there's that conflict that arises when one of the two potential lovebirds is "a fake"? Maybe she's a hooker posing as a girlfriend or he's a ... male hooker posing as a wedding date, but the gimmick is worn to the bone by now: When a movie tells you that this couple won't fall in love, you know it's only a matter of 96 minutes before they do fall in love. And the rest is just filler.
In some movies (When Harry Met Sally comes to mind, obviously) the "filler" is laden with warm characters, amusing situations, and some sincere emotion. In other movies (like, let's say, Failure to Launch), the "filler" is USDA Grade-D horse meat, and no amount of droll background characters can save a movie like that.
The gimmick this time around is pretty threadbare: McConaughey plays a womanizing 35-year-old who still lives at home with his doting parents (Kathy Bates and ... Terry Bradshaw?) Parker is a professional "motivator" of some sort, I think, and she's hired to make Matty fall in love with her, thereby giving him the "confidence" he needs to move out and make a life for himself. Yawn, right? If I ended the review right here, would you have any doubt as to where this flick was headed?
Directed in choppy and rather lazy fashion by Tom Dey (who gave us the royal guilty pleasure that is Shangai Noon and the big-time failure that is Showtime), Failure to Launch is a lot worse than just "familiar and predictable." It's also rather smarmy and self-satsified and all but entirely bereft of humor. Since the two leads have no shot at earning some laughs, Dey gracessly jams a bunch of painful slapstick schtick into the flick. (Someone remind me why a rodent biting someone's hand is supposed to be hilarious. Please.)
Video: Perfectly clean anamorphic widescreen transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 Surround, plus a French 5.1 track. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.
No feature commentary, thank the lord, but there are five featurettes to dig through:
Casting Off: The Making of Failure to Launch (11:40) is a bunch of empty words, film clips, and junket-chatting.
The Failure to Launch Phenomenon (11:22) is an attempt to explain the "adult kids living at home" situation. This time the interviews include some from actual men who still live with their parents. Imagine the insights offered within! (OK, a few authors do chime in, and they offer some mildly compelling perspectives.)
Dating in the New Millennium (6:56) is a glorified advertisment for several books, magazines, dating websites, and online matchmakers.
Moviefone.com Unscripted with Matthew and Terry (13:38) is a mirthless session in which McConaughey and Bradshaw lob silly softball questions to each other.
The Failure to Launch Contest (5:59) shows the results of a rather obnoxious contest run by Paramount and MySpace. Check in to see which of the three real-life "live with parents" dudes will win six months of free rent.
Also included are the trailers for Failure to Launch, Barnyard, She's the Man, and Mission: Impossible 3.
It'd take a considerably more charming pair of leads to salvage a concept this lame and a screenplay this witless. Seen elsewhere, McConaughey and Parker can be quite endearing and/or amusing. Not so in Failure to Launch, which is a failure in more ways than one.