Failure to laugh

Staff WriterMarch 10, 2006 

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey have about as much on-screen chemistry as oil and water.

"Failure to Launch" has got to be the laziest film I've seen so far this year. Just trifling.

It's like a fella showing up at a girl's house after being promised a home-cooked meal, only to find the girl has cooked nothing but macaroni and cheese. And it's not even the Kraft macaroni and cheese, the good kind. No, she got the store-brand stuff. And she didn't even cook it right, because she's lazy -- just like this movie.

Never has my mind wandered as it did during "Launch," another obtuse romantic farce that reminds us that deception, trickery and straight-up destroying someone's trust is the quickest way to that person's heart. The premise is so airheaded and implausible, it boggles the mind to think screenwriters got paid to think it up.

First off, we have Matthew McConaughey, daring us to suspend our disbelief, as Tripp, a 35-year-old still living at home with his parents (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw) and proud of it.

When Tripp breaks up with his umpteenth main squeeze after having her over to the crib for some late-night action, his parents decide to hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), a woman whose occupation is to get these grown men out of their parents' houses.

How does she do this? The parents pay her to go out with the boy a few times and boost his confidence enough so he can move out. Apparently, in this movie's universe, it's easier for parents to deceive their son than tell him, "Hey, boy, get outta here so we can have alone time."

Of course, Parker's paid escort begins to fall for the dude and his renaissance slacker ways. Hey, how could you not, it's Matthew McConaughey, whose Southern studliness got him voted People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" last year even though I don't know a single woman who'd want that.

It's a tiresome film, from the sitcom-y jokes (written by sitcom writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember) to the repetitive bursts of slapstick -- mostly involving animals biting somebody -- that director Tom Dey ("Shanghai Noon") throws in to mask the lack of chemistry between McConaughey and Parker. (Word has it that they didn't get along during filming.)

Plus, Parker has some weird thing going on with her neck that makes her difficult to look at in some scenes because she resembles a toad. And hey, didn't McConaughey already go through this nonsense in another grating Paramount love story, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"?

Believe it or not, the film has a couple of attributes. Zooey Deschanel is, as always, a breath of fresh, sarcastic air as Parker's acid-tongued, Bud Light-swigging roommate. And I was quite shocked to take a shine to Bradshaw's blustery dad. He and the always-resourceful Bates make quite the pair of politely fed-up parents.

"Failure to Launch" may be seen as just some light, harmless fun. But jeez, shouldn't a date movie keep your mind from drifting and not have you reminiscing about that time some pretty girl tried to kill you with her bad mac and chee? Lazy, I tell ya, just lazy.

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760, clindsey@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle.

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