Did you know that Terry Bradshaw has had a very small acting career? It is okay if that name does not immediately ring a bell. If you watch football at all, it might be a little more familiar. He is a former Super Bowl winning quarterback, and current analyst for Fox’s pre-game Sunday show during the National Football League’s (NFL) season. He is a bit of a goober, which is perhaps why people have decided to give him cinematic roles. Anyway, today’s film, Failure to Launch (2006), has him in it for some reason, though this is not why this review was written. You will have to read the rest to find that out.
Terry Bradshaw is not the star of Failure to Launch. That would be Matthew McConaughey, who plays Tripp. Tripp is a thirty something guy who is a successful person, but a paramour. His success is enough to get him a steady parade of lovers. The way he gets out of a potential long-term relationship is by inviting them “his” place. When they discover that this means his parents’ house, they decide they have had enough and promptly leave. While Al (Terry Bradshaw) and Sue (Kathy Bates) love their son, they are keen to see Tripp move out so they can get down to their retirement. This is when some friends of theirs introduce them to Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker). Paula is a consultant, making a career of getting men who have trouble leaving home to make that final step into adulthood. To do so, she begins relationships with guys as a way to “fix them.” The thing is, both of them have their own sets of emotional baggage that informs their current behavior. For Tripp, it is the fact that he had previously been engaged, but his fiancée had passed away. In Paula’s case, she had her heart broken. In the wake of this, she had made her mission to make better men. This is something that her roommate, Kit (Zooey Deschanel), is annoyed with, and often lets Paula know of the frustration felt. In any case, Paula and Tripp begin to get to know one another. There are a few problems that present themselves. The first of these is that Tripp is not the typical client. As mentioned, his boat business brings him a considerable income, and is not socially awkward like the men Paula typically sees. Tripp also finds that he is developing real feelings for Paula, which he confides to his best friend Ace (Justin Bartha). The obvious solution to this is a second date, which would then head to Tripp’s parents’ house. She would see his living situation and dump him. When it proceeds as expected, Al and Sue must lie about their connection to Paula, which they barely manage to do. As such, Tripp’s plan backfires. Further, he is not the only one developing feelings, which becomes all the more complicated when they have sex. Doing this always often problematic before marriage, but our society seems to continue to celebrate such behavior anyway. I digress. Clearly, the situation is fragile because Tripp is also lying, having told Paula that he had bought the house for his parents. What begins the process of unraveling it all is Ace. He finds Paula with another client, and he decides to blackmail Paula into getting a date with Kit, on whom he has developed a crush. Because Paula is not keen on leaving her job unfinished, she convinces Kit to go out with Ace. It ends up going better than Kit expects, though the reality of the situation eventually comes out to Tripp. When he is told the truth of his relationship with Paula, he naturally tells her that he wants nothing more to do with her, doing so in front of his parents because they are in the situation, too. Paula ends up refunding Al and Sue. As for Tripp, though he makes amends with his parents, they can see that he is still unhappy. Paula’s friends notice the same thing about her. As such, everyone gets together to devise a plan to get Paula and Tripp back together. Their plan involves kidnapping Tripp, and locking him in a room with Paula. Their discussion is contentious at first, both of them accusing the other of lying. Nonetheless, they find a way to patch things up, relying on the foundation they had laid while Tripp was Paula’s client. In the end, this means that Paula actually accomplishes what she had set out to do. I say this because the film ends with Paula and Tripp sailing off into the sunset. Al and Sue sort of do the same, too, satisfied to finally be empty nesters.
Failure to Launch is not a terribly complicated movie, although the themes are somewhat unique. I cannot think of too many of other films that deal specifically with guys who have trouble moving out of their parent’s house. One of the ways I have seen other reviewers describe what Paula does is the work of a prostitute. I feel this title is a little harsh, although I can understand to a certain degree why people thought of it. It is not charitable, though. I know I have discussed this in previous reviews, but the Catholic Church sees charity and love as interchangeable. This is somewhat of a function of translating words from ancient Greek and Latin. In ancient Greek in particular, there are several different ways of translating the word love, and that was the language spoken by many early Christians. There is the kind of love felt between friends, married couples, and the kind of love reserved for God. This last one is the highest of them all. You can see the first two in the film. Yes, there is a lot of lying going on, and that is not ideal in these situations. However, with the inevitable modern twist on such matters that only Hollywood can deliver, the main characters exhibit this kind of behavior towards one another. Finally, forgiveness is also an act of charity. The fact that they can do this for one another has a lot of value.
Failure to Launch is a fun little movie. It is also interesting to see a salty Zooey Deschanel, which describes her character, Kit. Most of her roles are quirky, but sweet. There are a few somewhat objectionable moments, but nothing too crazy. It is a fine film to put on for an at home date night.