Review: ‘Failure to Launch’

Is living at home in your thirties really so bad? Don’t ask your parents.

Trip (Matthew McConaughey) is in his early thirties, has a good job, good friends, and fairly non-stressful life… still at home living with his parents. As it turns out, Trip’s parents aren’t alone in getting their little angel out, but there are alternatives. Enter Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), a self-billed specialist in getting nest-clingers out on their own by giving these young men the confidence they need to ‘fly’ on their own. While it all sounds good on paper, a few unknown factors get in the way of what sound like the best idea for everyone and risks destroying a perfectly happy family.

This film could have just as easily been billed as “How to Get a Guy Out of His Parents’ House in 10 Steps,” but it would have been a little too close to this film’s obvious inspiration, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (nor is it any coincidence that Matthew McConaughey stars in both). Both films exploit misconceptions about relationships while a love interest for McConaughey falls for their ‘target subject’ instead of remaining impartial. With Sarah Jessica Parker replacing Kate Hudson, Failure to Launch actually exceeds 10 Days in concept by successfully splicing in a classic buddy comedy at the same time, making it possibly the perfect chick flick/buddy flick hybrid… and it works, too.

The secret? A well-rounded supporting cast, including Kathy Bates and
Terry Bradshaw as McConaughey’s parents, Zooey Deschanel as Parker’s screwy in-the-loop roommate, plus Justin Bartha and Bradley Cooper as McConaughey’s best friends. If you’ve guessed this is closer to an ensemble than a supporting cast, you’re exactly right. The interaction and final edit balances all these characters and interwoven plot points together tightly enough to gel but loose enough not to be heavy handed. At one point, the fourth wall almost breaks down as the supporting cast assembles for the classic “fix the problem” meeting, revealing that the filmmakers are all too aware of the reason most of this films land with a thud in theaters and aim significant higher.

After watching many a date film (ie “chick flick” lite) and realizing the journey’s the thing since we already know the ending, Failure to Launch is light enough, clever enough, and well-rounded enough to earn and entertain its target audience. As for who that audience is, try just about anyone in or around a modern relationship that knows how complex moving out or moving on has really become.

(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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