Finally, a proper name has been given to the countless grown men who still live at home. They are no longer “slackers” or “losers.” Instead, the movie “Failure to Launch” unites them under the title “adult children.” Unable to leave the security of a world where parents cook, clean and take care of their every need, such men simply refuse to grow up.

Jessica Boullion
“This new self-tanning spray gun is really sweet!” (Courtesy of Paramount)

This may not seem like the makings of an ideal romantic leading man, but in the form of Trip (Matthew McConaughey, “Sahara”), this situation creates a fresh dynamic. But despite its somewhat clever premise, the movie relies too much on the typical romantic-comedy storyline to really take off.

For Trip, taking the next step into adulthood has been slow in coming. The solution presents herself in the form of Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker, TV’s “Sex and the City”), who simulates a romantic relationship with men like Trip. With her “professional” help, these men gain enough self-confidence to finally move out. Trip’s parents Sue (Kathy Bates, “About Schmidt”) and Al (Terry Bradshaw, “Robots”), desperate for their 35-year-old son to move out, recruit her services.

At its heart, the movie is about two people both scared of the next step – but the obviousness of the plot’s direction makes the audience completely indifferent to the way the characters get there.

The movie does, however, give an interesting brand of relationship advice. By its logic, a relationship is a five-step process. Boy and girl meet cute, pretend to like everything the other likes, bond over an emotional crisis, get the nod from the friends and teach each other something. True, brevity suits the film’s 96-minute length, but through this oversimplification, the story loses the romance in its romantic-comedy formula.

Also by this formula, the audience should not be more interested in secondary characters then the romantic leads. Both Trip and Paula are beautiful and charming, but their onscreen coupling fizzles, and it falls to the supporting cast to make up for this mismatch. Kit (Zooey Deschanel, “Elf”) steals every scene she’s in. It’s a bad sign when the audience is more interested in her problems with a mocking bird than with the chemistry between Trip and Paula. It doesn’t help the protagonists any that castmembers Ace (Justin Bartha, “Gigli”) and Demo (Bradley Cooper, “Wedding Crashers”) have some of the best dialogue in the movie, either.

The film is full of wasted potential. Besides the hilarious supporting characters, it cleverly allows Trip to use his parents in a breakup. There’s even an entire arc about Trip’s lifestyle following a course contrary to nature, leading to attacks by a chipmunk, dolphin and lizard.

McConaughey, for his part, pulls off the physical slapstick comedy without a hitch and there are some inspired lines (“I’ll give you a Canadian Goose”). Terry Bradshaw even gets naked – it should have all come together. But it doesn’t. “Adult children” is clever, even socially sensitive, but I’d just as soon call them slackers if it meant someone could reuse the premise for a better movie.

Failure to Launch
At the Showcase and Quality 16
Paramount

Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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