Most movies filed under the romantic comedy section are of no interest to me. Not that I don’t like Meg Ryan, I just don’t care for those over the top, dripping with smooches and kisses, endless loves that have nothing to do with finding a partner in the real world. Failure To Launch, while still a romantic comedy, is quite possibly the best case scenario for the genre. Here relationships take place in the midst of parents, friends, paint ball wars, and actual emotions that aren’t love. Failure To Launch has a legitimate story to tell and goes about presenting it in a way that is fresh and captivating.
By now most people know the set up for the movie, Tripp (McConaughey) at thirty-five, still lives at home with his parents (Bradshaw and Bates), then along comes love interest Paula (Parker). Where Launch deviates from the plan is that Paula is not really Tripp’s new girlfriend. She has been hired by his parents to lure him into moving out of his parents’ house. With a plan in place, Paula works hard to build Tripp’s confidence and make him feel capable of adult independence, that is, of course, until Tripp finds out.
The best asset Launch has is that there isn’t a single gap in the acting talents in the whole cast. Every person in the film has a distinct and wonderful performance that enriches not only their character but also the whole movie. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey have an exciting chemistry that isn’t over the top with cutesy flirtation and is as intensely refreshing and real as that of Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw. To compliment such a strong cast it’s also nice to find a story so complete and one that, for a romantic comedy, actually included men doing manly things and having man relationships. Too often these types of films have some horrible actor with a British accent doing nothing but fawning over the girl and caring about her feelings, and lets face it, those types of men don’t exist. I’d much rather prefer a film like Failure to Launch where the guys don’t always focus on women because that’s more true to life.
Aside from the main story of Tripp and Paula, there are a lot of other relationships realized in the film; the most notable being that of Tripp’s parents. While the chemistry is great between them, the writers were careful to create a realistic dynamic with their relationship. Tripp’s mother has become accustomed to caring for her only son’s every need while his father has had to suppress his desire to wander naked in through the house. If it wasn’t enough to see Kathy Bates bare it all in About Schmidt it’s quite a kick to see the full view of Bradshaw in his birthday suit.
The only place where the film is lacking is toward the end. There’s a computer/camera gimmick and a restaurant portion that I really think is poor and pulls away from the intimacy of watching this relationship between Paula and Tripp take place. It’s not that the ending is bad, it’s just that so much of the movie has a feeling to it that you are close to the characters and then the portion with the restaurant pushes you back and reminds you that you are on the outside. This ending issue aside, the film is witty, funny, and engaging and, although you know the main characters will be together in the end, I much prefer the gritty, realistic style to the overdone “modern day fairy tale.”
Taking into consideration that the version I viewed of Failure to Launch was released as a Special Collector’s Edition (or at least that’s what it says across the top of the box), I was pretty disappointed to find that there are only five featurettes and no audio commentary. The least they could offer would be a commentary by the director. I’m not asking for Sarah Jessica or Matthew to sit around and watch their own film and record a track for me, but at least give us someone to listen to. With the writing being the quality that it is, it would have been great to even hear them talking about the movie. But no, nothing, just five extras and that’s it.
The first of the features is “Casting Off: The Making of Failure To Launch.” A pretty descent set of interviews, behind the scenes looks, and other of the typical but for the most part interesting extras. The next is “The Failure to Launch Phenomenon.” This looks at some of the actual situations in which a man is still living with his parents and is fairly interesting especially since there are interviews with both the man and his parents on it. I’ll spare readers my personal views on the subject of adulthood of males versus females in modern day life for now, but you know who you are if you still have action figures set up on your shelves while I boxed up my Barbie years ago for risk of being juvenile. And keep in mind that the very women men typically fear in movies and TV are the ones that haven’t yet let go of their childhood dolls and yet it is the women that are supposed to be tolerant of the men who do the same thing with their toys. (Ahh, that feels better.)
The third feature on this special edition is “Dating in the New Millennium” which is odd because the film isn’t as much about dating as it is the failure of launching from the nest. So, despite it not quite feeling at home on this disc, perhaps better suited for a Bridget Jones flick, it’s not a bad extra. Next to last is “Moviefone.com Unscripted with Matthew McConaughey and Terry Bradshaw.” This one was okay, just a basic and casual discussion between the two of them and interrupted every couple of minutes by the next prompted question for one to ask the other. Finally, aside from a trailer, the last feature had to do with “The Failure to Launch Contest.” This last one was a waste for the most part, and I wouldn’t recommend watching that one at all.
What’s tricky with Failure to Launch is that the film is so good and careful, well rounded and in touch with real personalities and human responses, and then there’s the disc; a distant, almost painful, stepchild far removed from the film and no where near as entertaining. It’s not that the extras are complete failure. Just don’t name the disc the collector’s edition unless you mean it and it’s worth collecting. For now, I’m going to pretend this version is exactly what it is: just the first version of the disc to come out and that a more worthwhile double dip will come sometime around December.