Failure to Launch

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Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey. Rated PG.

There is perhaps no purer love than that of a man for his mom's home cooking. Except maybe that of a man for the girl who laughs at all his jokes. In Failure to Launch, in which Sarah Jessica Parker's character is paid to simulate a love relationship with a couple's slacker son (Matthew McConaughey) so he unparks himself and leaves the family home, the unwitting man must choose between calculated giggles and resentfully proffered pancakes and sausage. So abhorrent is the romantic subterfuge, so utterly blameworthy the womenfolk, that McConaughey comes this close to winning what Adam Sandler characters have long attempted but cannot: absolution and sympathy for the self-centred male who refuses to grow up.

Parker plays Paula, our interventionist, as if she were Carrie Bradshaw, but columnless and having to deconstruct relationships as a paid escort. McConaughey's Tripp is a commitmentphobe who lives at home because it repulses girls who might otherwise get too serious about him. In addition to being a player not even a maudlin back story can humanize, he's a luxury-boat broker. (Insert trite metaphors of women as high-maintenance pleasure craft here.)

Failure to Launch may purport to preach against erecting barriers to intimacy, but its unsavoury characters stubbornly illustrate precisely why we build them. And although we are conditioned to adore our three-dressed-up-as-a-nine Carrie Bradshaw, we're nagged throughout by the realization that Parker was sorely miscast here as a temptress opposite 2006's Sexiest Man Alive.

For a romantic comedy, Failure to Launch is neither mushy nor funny; its prolonged paintball scenes, male bonding, and no-strings sex are aimed squarely at men. We're treated to absurd sight gags wherein Tripp is bitten by dolphins, chipmunks, and iguanas. Where we long for dreamy eye contact and silent handholding, we get Paula's relationship play-by-play and Tripp's colour commentary. Was no one listening when Billy Joel pleaded to leave a tender moment alone?

Attempting to distract from our leads' zilch chemistry are Tripp's two wacky stay-at-home kidult buds, a kooky Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw as Tripp's culpable parents, and Paula's moody roomie (Zooey Deschanel). But the only supporting actor Failure to Launch director Tom Dey needed to use was a pissed-off old woman yelling "stop cooking with cheese!" through the parents' dining-room window, thus sparing us the bulk of this nonsensical Peter Pan apologia.