Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Failure to Launch

When the rating on the film came on, it told us it was PG-13 because of "language and partial nudity." It did NOT warn us that the partial nudity was Terry Bradshaw's.

This is just one of the major disappointments in Failure to Launch, a "modern" comedy that suggests that men in their 30's don't leave home for various reasons. In this case, Matthew McConaughey plays Tripp, a somewhat successful boat broker who has lived in the same room since he was 3, Superman sheets on the bed and all. Parents Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw sigh with envy at those couples who have shed their offspring. That's when they learn about the interventionist, a woman who could romance their son and convince him that it's time to become a mature adult and move out. And you can guess the ending without any further prompting.

There are some cute things in the movie. There's a great paintball scene -- I mean, would YOU think of taking your date to paintball? -- and some scenes showing a little reality in men's lives, like what guys do when they get together (watch football on T.V., play video games, surfing, drinking) and how men dress (in Matthew's case, mostly shorts). And Sarah Jessica Parker's roommate, Kit, played by a feisty Zooey Deschanel, is interesting enough.

But there's so little here that the screenwriters -- or perhaps the director? -- felt they had to clog the message with inane scenes of Tripp getting bitten by hedgehogs or dolphins. Stupid stuff.

Let's face it: this is a one-note comedy. We know the premise, which is cute enough, and we had hopes that McConaughy and Parker could pull it off with sheer force of personality. They almost do, but even those 1-million megawatt smiles can't overcome lack of story and wit. And, please, please, find something better for award-winning Kathy Bates to do, for God's sake! And save Terry Bradshaw's backside for something appropriate, like Monday Night Football.

Thumb's down.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Truthful movies are rare: movies that eschew white hats and black hats for something genuine about human nature generally lack the sturm und drang (or car chases) that bring crowds into the theater. Tonight I saw a truthful movie.

Shopgirl, from the novel of the same name by Steve Martin, is a quiet little film that tells important truths. You can find a synopsis of the film anywhere (try the link I just supplied). What is remarkable about this film is that it is genuinely moral: it asks important questions about love and decency and human nature, and spins those questions through the lives of three flawed people, and then it allows the viewer to draw his own conclusions. It manages to be moral without being pompous, saved by mostly very gently drawn humor. (There is one minor storyline with a broadly humorous finish, a tale of one indecent broad.)

What kind of agreements can we make, and can we keep? What can be bought, and what cannot? What can be sold? And what is most valuable when it is freely but not recklessly given?

Watch Shopgirl. Thumb's up.