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Friday, March 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Failure to Launch": Stars strike sparks but can't ignite soggy script

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Failure to Launch," with Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, Terry Bradshaw, Kathy Bates. Directed by Tom Dey, from a screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity and language. Several theaters.

For those who think that the life of a movie critic is a jolly romp through art and popcorn, consider this: In order to write this review, I had to spend a fair amount of time staring at the unclothed nether regions of Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw is a man of many accomplishments, but nude modeling does not appear to be one of them.

I'm not asking for your sympathy, dear readers. Watching this sort of thing is my job, and I've recovered nicely. You, however, would be paying for the privilege.

If you're wondering why Bradshaw has a nude scene in a Matthew McConaughey/Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy — well, I'm still wondering, too. The filmmakers seem to have tossed it in for no particular reason, sort of like a gift-with-purchase.

"Failure to Launch," despite a charming cast and a potentially funny premise, is a romantic comedy without fizz. The makers seem to have little faith in their product. The movie keeps cutting away from the main characters, with pointless diversions like the Bradshaw scene or a subplot in which Zooey Deschanel endlessly plots to kill a bird. It's as if director Tom Dey is just trying to fill up the running time. At 97 minutes, it feels very long.

Too bad, because McConaughey and Parker look adorable together. He's Tripp, a 35-year-old boat salesman who still lives happily at home with his parents (Bradshaw, Kathy Bates); she's Paula, a "consultant" secretly hired by said parents to get him out of the house.

Tripp and his buddies (who have names like Demo and Ace) all seem to still live at home and are amusingly defensive about it, and there's definitely the grain of a funny idea here. But the story makes no sense — why do Tripp's parents treat him so indulgently (Mom makes daily pancake breakfasts that look so heavenly I was tempted to move in myself) if they want him out? Why don't they just talk to him about it?

McConaughey meanders through with his laconic, I-know-I'm-cute charm, and Parker squeals and giggles nicely. It's no stretch to see these two pairing up. But would it have been so hard to create a decent screenplay? Apparently so. "Failure to Launch" is yet another disposable romantic comedy made with little thought or skill.

The cast deserves better, just as Bradshaw deserves pants. Please.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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