|It's hard to tell which of the lead stars of Failure to Launch was cast improperly, though it's routinely obvious over the course of the film that either Matthew McConaughey or Sarah Jessica Parker was wrongly cast in the film. Each possesses a few films in his or her resume that could probably be dropped under the "romantic comedy" column, but chances are they won't be able to add this film to their comedic CV. Sure, there's comedy in the film, but it usually doesn't come from the combination of these two actors on the screen.|
Although it represents itself as a romantic comedy, much of the film just floats along in a highly predictable manner, lightly trotting to its conclusion without the benefit of a truly believable pair of lead actors. While Parker and McConaughey are able to pair up for a few genuine laughs over the course of their romancing, the viewer will never quite forget that they know what's coming around the bend. It's not always a deal-breaker for a romantic comedy to present a predictable and over-used plot, but the lead actors must be able to take up the slack and create a truly engrossing, personal romance.
Drawing from his success in other romantic comedies, it's probable that the filmmakers believed that pairing the often-shirtless Matthew McConaughey with any blonde and bubbly co-star would result in a lightly zany romance. Likewise, the casting folks might have determined that placing Sarah Jessica Parker, once star of the popular HBO series "Sex in the City," into the front seat of a romantic comedy would be all they needed to create an engaging romantic comedy. But from the way in which McConaughey and Parker interact, it's possible someone forgot to check whether the two stars actually had any chemistry with on another.
A common occurrence in this film is that the supporting characters often jump up into the main spotlight and garner more interest than the lead romantic duo. It's hard to find fault with any performance from Kathy Bates (she plays McConaughey's mother) and even if the films she chooses to involve herself with aren't always a hit out of the park, viewers can count on a solid performance in everything she does. Co-star Terry Bradshaw, playing Bates's husband and McConaughey's father, who doesn't have the same degree of performance pedigree as Bates, nevertheless puts in a few good laughs and was cast surprisingly well.
Another welcome performance comes from supporting actress, Zooey Deschanel, who plays Parker's roommate. It's doubtful the filmmakers realized when they started shooting this film that Deschanel's character and performance would become a more interesting focal point than the lead story (but whether that's due to her superior performance skills or the iffy casting of the lead actors is debatable). While the filmmakers deserve a few slaps for dumping Zooey in the sub-plot, perhaps they also deserve some thanks for actually putting her in the movie.
Concerning the aspects of the film not related to performance, the price-tag of the acting talent all but assures the audience of slick production values and a large cinematic vista. Never presenting itself as an independent romantic soul-searcher, the film seeks to entertain its audience with the banality of mindless comedy (commonly called "slapstick," and it's been accomplished more entertainingly than this) and an easily predictable romance. True, there are just a few laugh-out-loud moments in the film, but the greatest threat to the film are the lead stars and the comedic stumbles they encounter on the path to true love.
While it might be tempting to toss out a few jokes concerning a few of the "failures" of this movie and its title, that might be too harsh given the filmmakers' intent to create a movie of romantic fluff and zany, slapstick comedy. Released around the same time of the year as McConaughey's last romantic comedy outing, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, it's clear the filmmakers are banking on the post-Oscar buzz time of the year to present a film to the public that doesn't have "Oscar worthy" written all over it. And though its intent is an innocent, slapstick one, Failure to Launch just doesn't try hard enough to win the audience's affections and as a result is more valuable as a last-minute rental than a big-screen experience.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.