It’s tempting to lightly praise Failure to Launch for at least attempting to be something more than a cookie cutter romantic comedy, but since the film stinks on almost every level, and contains only about three or four actual laughs over its seemingly quite lengthy running time, I won’t be praising it at all.
Matthew McConaughey plays a 35 year old man who still lives with his parents, and he brings to this role his trademark laid back charm – sadly, what McConaughey is shooting for is making the role look easy, but all he gets is making it look like he’s not even trying. Casting McConaughey in the role is a major mistake; I don’t know if there was an original script where the 35 year old man living with his parents was a dweeb or a loser, but in this film he’s a successful, happy and sexually victorious guy. It’s hard to be on his side, no matter how many adorable little black “nephews” he has or how tragic his backstory might be – a guy doing this well and living at home is a douchebag.
It’s fitting that his romantic foil is equally as despicable – Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is like a sub-hooker, who gets hired by the parents of adult children who won’t leave home to woo the homebound offspring and convince them to move out on their own. It’s a deeply creepy job, based wholly on grotesque deception and the worst kind of bad faith. The film sets up a scenario where you don’t want to root for either of the main characters.
Thankfully there is a secondary character worth watching – Zooey Deschanel in the Joan Cusack role as the acerbic best friend, or at least Sarah Jessica Parker’s roommate. Failure to Launch is almost refreshing in that it gives Deschanel, and McConaughey’s best friends, some reasonable screen time, and some of the “better” jokes. Sadly, the film overexposes Terry Bradshaw, who plays McConaughey’s father – and I mean that literally. He’s butt naked for far too long in a scene that goes from being humorous to downright horrifying in moments.
Failure to Launch has the Farrelly Bros on its mind; it keeps trotting out absurdist set pieces, but instead of bodily fluids they center around wildlife. And no, not sexually – that might be funny. Instead, every animal McConaughey meets comes at him with savage anger; meanwhile Deschanel is dealing with a mockingbird outside her window that is driving her crazy. That leads to a set piece so incredibly unfunny that I sat in actual awe watching it, and wondered what it must feel like to be an adult and be called on to do something so patently lacking in humor.
Failure to Launch is too subpar to even get worked up about. It’s also the most obvious movie I’ve seen in years – there isn’t a plot point that isn’t telegraphed far in advance. The film plays like the longest case of déjà vu on record. And like most déjà vu, the film will disappear from your consciousness and memory before it’s even over.