Monday, March 13, 2006

REVIEW: Failure to Launch

Romantic Comedies continue to be responsible for the worst overall output of any genre, and "Failure to Launch" is no exception. A pair of "name" stars pop up in the first ten minutes, pre-revealed by the posters (stark white with just the leads, MANDATORY) as a "great couple," and the story spends the length of a feature keeping them apart by any means necessary. Once again, the result is a god-awful movie that takes the #1 spot at the boxoffice. I'm a critic, so I already know why I went to see this. The question is... what's the excuse for the rest of you?

Like most of it's worser brethren, "Failure" starts out by pretending to be "about" something bigger than itself. The subject for the day is "adult children still living at home," the continuing baby boomer pickle that already inspired the much-maligned but much-funnier "Freddy Got Fingered." A good film could be made from this situation, but so far hasn't and probably won't until someone wants to take a hard look at it. Thus far, the "Peter Pan" generation hasn't quite captured control of the film biz, while their boomer parents remain steadfastly in denial about any culpability on their part, and nobody really wants to see an entire film based on the premise of the WWII generation "I-told-you-so-ing" thier boomer offspring about not practicing enough tough-love.

Matthew McConaughey is Trip, a 35 year-old heartbreaker still living with his parents. You'll already have gathered that he's no "slacker," though: He's got a good job as a high-end boat broker, he's a master chef, a mountain-biking, rock-climbing, paint-balling super athlete, a sensitive conversationalist and a top-shelf father-figure to his African American nephew. A catch, in other words. This can be indicative of two things: That the film is yet another bad rom-com propping up a cheezy female fantasy OR that it's setting up a poor excuse for a third-act twist. Guess what, you're right either way!

Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw are the parents, apparently lacking the ability to just ask him to move out. Enter Sarah Jessica Parker as, when you get right down to it, the evil female caucasian counterpart to Will Smith's "Hitch." She's a "professional interventionist" who specializes in evicting man-children from mom and dad's house by (I'm not making this up) pretending to fall in love with them, dating them and staging big emotional hurdles in order to jump-start their self-confidence. Presumably she then dumps them, likely without ever revealing the truth, which from where I'm standing makes her a pretty unlikable protagonist.

I know, I know. This is just "Taming of The Shrew" gender-reversed and in modern times, so it would be wrong to complain about Parker's character running a Petrucchio scam "because I wouldn't if she was a MAN!" But here's the thing... What makes the situation in "Taming" funny is that Katherine is such a bitch-on-wheels that it actually is necessary to call in a shifty con artist to take her down a peg or twelve. Here, the only things seemingly "wrong" with Trip are comfort-zone inertia and fear of commitment, which don't "make" him anything other than MALE. So it's just moronic that Parker's character is so desperately needed, (and NO, the later "what's really going on" twist DOESN'T fix it.)

This is the same basic problem that most bad romantic comedies (i.e. most romantic comedies) run in to: They're based on contrived, idiotic premises that render the two lead characters either un-engaging or unlikable. What's primarily supposed to "make up" for that is that these awful characters are played by attractive, well-liked actors behaving as readers of "Us Weekly" imagine them to behave. There's also a secondary defense: The Wacky Best Friend(s) played by funny character actors who walk away with the film. "Failure" equips Trip with three fellow man-boys, none of them funny; while Zooey Deschanel works her (adorable) ass off to make some scenes of this not suck so much as Parker's character's funnier, sexier, more-interesting roommate.

Which reminds me... Ladies, guys have to hear from y'all CONSTANTLY about films for "us" giving us unrealistic images of women, sell us "fantasies," etc. Here's my issue: Every month or so we get one of these "going-nowhere-guy-improved-by-right-girl" rom-coms, and in EVERY SINGLE ONE these Greek-statuary-looking surfer-hunk guys are falling all over themselves for Sarah Jessica Parker, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, etc. All very pleasant-looking but not exactly "stop-traffic" sexy women. Girls... you want to talk UNREALISTIC FANTASIES!?

I mean, I don't wanna sound bitter or cynical, but... it's not a big secret that the reason it's THESE actresses (again, all very talented and attractive in their own right) who topline this genre: Because their good-looking enough to be movie starlets but not holy-crap-sexy enough to actually intimidate or threaten "real" women. The plain fact is, and you KNOW THIS... if there really were a guy who looked like Matthew McConaughey, who had money and stable job, and who was great with kids, and who could cook, etc., women would be lined up for blocks trying to woo him away from the nest like some kind of human sword-in-the-stone... And if it hadn't worked yet, guess what? A Sarah Jessica Parker ain't gonna do it. It's gonna take an Angelina Jolie.

Or a Charlize Theron.

Or a Salma Hayek.

Or Veronica Zemanova.
http://wiezer.com/busty-veronica-zemanova-nude/14.jpg (ignore the text, CLEAN link)

Or he's gay...

In which case, Angelina could probably STILL do it, her being superwoman and all. The point is, you won't see those actresses in these movies, even though it's more realistic (hell, because it's more realistic) because they intimidate the female audience and this genre lives and breathes by selling said female audience goofy fantasies as contrived and unlikely as ANYTHING men are chastised for enjoying-as-served by Michael Bay or John Woo.

Skip this.

FINAL RATING: 1/10

Footnote: This must be some kind of record, as the film not only contains THREE unfunny scenes of a character being attacked by various animals, it contains what has to be the single stupidest justification for such ever inserted into a single film. It's kind of awe-inspiring, in it's awfulness.