Friday, 20 November 2009

Failure to Launch

Lowdown: Parents hire a woman to take their 35 year old son away from their home.
Most of what I said on the previous film reviewed here, Two Weeks Notice, applies to Failure to Launch (2006) just the same. Both are pretty predictable romantic comedies featuring stars doing their exact stereotype role; it's just a case where Failure to Launch replaces Hugh Grant with Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock with Sarah Jessica Parker. So overall, you can rightly say that Failure to Launch "offers" a bit of a downgrade when it comes to the quality of its leads.
The premises are simple: McConaughey is a successful salesman who, at 35, still lives with his parents (with Kathy Bates featuring as the mother in a role that doesn't begin to challenge her talent). He has a trick: whenever a girl gets too close to him and wants a tighter relationship, he takes her home and relies on the surprise encounter with his parents to break things off and render him free again. His parents, however, are tired of his presence; he milks them left and right. So they hire Jessica Parker to lure him and cure him of his disease, that is: offer him a relationship he cannot refuse and thus force him to leave home. The rest, as they say, is predictably comfortable.
The problem with Failure to Launch, or at least its main problem, is that its subject matter is worthy of treatment much superior to what it gets in the film. What it gets in the film is the usual American cinema superficiality affair, a problem made worse by a surprise revelation concerning McConaughey towards the end of the film which adds nothing but over politically correct a film that's already too politically correct. In contrast, today alone I have encountered a paper published in the Journal of Quantitative Sociology discussing the evolution of trends in children's' autonomy and responsibilities. It discusses how today's kids do many less chores in the house, thus much more free there, while they're prevented from going anywhere outside the house on their own. That serves to offer a potential explanation for the rising popularity of kids staying at their parents' home way later than they used to in the past; sadly, Failure to Luanch completely fails to discuss things to a level remotely close to meaningful (never mind a level close to this paper's).
Another issue that Failure to Launch deals with rather miserably is the fact that Jessica Parker's occupation leaves her not too far from being a whore. Not that I have a problem with that, it's just that this film is too politically correct to be able to deal with that matter with a straight face. Instead, it goes through loops and bends to settle things down and it never manages it.
So... thus far, Failure to Launch sounds like a pretty ordinary film. Yet I have to say I liked it and I've enjoyed it. Why? Because of the minor character of Jessica Parker's room mate that is played by Zooey Deschanel. Deschanel's performance is so good it dominates the film: unlike the main stars, she is a born comedian. She doesn't have as many minutes in front of the camera as the main couple, but when she does she rules; those minutes turned out to be enough for me to enjoy Failure to Launch rather than suffer through it. I would love to see more of her!
Best scene: Deschanel and a suitor ambush an annoying mocking bird in order to kill it (as per the famous book's title, and against laws dealing with endangered species as well as against American sensitivities).
Overall: Saved by a supporting role. 3 out of 5 stars.

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