Movie review: ‘Failure to Launch'

EntertainmentNew ProductsMoviesTerry BradshawZooey DeschanelTom DeyKathy Bates

1½ stars (out of four)

Cursed with an honest title, "Failure to Launch" waves a white flag in scene after scene, declaring surrender. We give up! We do not know how to make a decent mainstream romantic comedy!

Outside the often fruitful sub genre of the raunchmantic comedy ("Wedding Crashers " or the superior "40 Year-Old Virgin") it has been too long since audiences could loosen up and enjoy themselves at a star-driven comic romance. In the days of the studio system, machine-tooled pleasantries rolled off the line every 20 minutes. But these are the new days, not the old, and if this particular hack job starring Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker and McConaughey's blinding white teeth is a hit, I'm moving back in with my parents.

McConaughey portrays Tripp, a successful 35-year-old yacht broker--already you may be trying to decide what's less relatable, the character's name or his profession--who, get this, still lives at home with his folks. Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates play the folks.The folks hire a consultant, Paula (Parker), who acts as a professional offspring remover. Her job involves building her youngish male clients' self-esteem; going out on a couple of non-sexual but enticing dates with them; and then inspiring the live-at-homes to leave the nest and move on. If your guess is that Paula and Tripp end up falling in love, your guess is as good as the writers'.

Parker was lucky with "Sex and the City": She scored a series fully up to her comic talents. She knows, too, how to elevate mediocre material simply by staying engaged and sharpening each exchange. McConaughey works the other way: He's a glider, happiest behind a pair of expensive sunglasses, on a boat. Tripp is such a smug character, "Failure to Launch" has a huge hole in the spot where the rooting interest usually goes.

It is Zooey Deschanel, a good 15 years younger than Parker, who comes off best, as Paula's "Daria"-inspired roommate. Rob Corddry, reliably swell in his role as a regular "Daily Show" correspondent, has a bit as a gun salesman that makes him look like just another forgettable character actor. Directed by Tom Dey like a series of little television commercials, "Failure to Launch" features screen-filling product placement for Budweiser, PowerBar and Coke. You may well run out and buy Budweiser, PowerBars and Coke after the movie. You may happen to "choose" these brands over their competitors next time you shop. Or you may decide to buy anything but those brands because you've had it with product placement in movies, especially movies that barely function as products on their own.

mjphillips@tribune.com

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`Failure to Launch'

Directed by Tom Dey; screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember; cinematography by Claudio Miranda; production design by Jeremy Conway; music by Rolfe Kent; edited by Steven Rosenblum; produced by Scott Rudin and Scott Aversano. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:37. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, partial nudity and language).

Tripp - Matthew McConaughey

Paula - Sarah Jessica Parker

Kit - Zooey Deschanel

Al - Terry Bradshaw

Sue - Kathy Bates

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