But with Failure to Launch, he finally has the perfect vehicle to highlight his slacker radiance. He plays the aptly named Tripp, a 35-year-old yacht salesman who still lives with his mommy (Oscar winner Kathy Bates) and daddy (Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw) and uses the folks to break up with girls he feels are getting too attached. He brings them home for a night of foolin' around, then waits for dad to barge in before springing the news that he still lives at home. Works every time.
Or it does until he brings home Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), who doesn't blanch at the sad news that her boyfriend's stuck in the groove that became a rut some 15 years ago. But that's only because Tripp's folks have hired Paula to woo their boy and lure him out of the nest; she's a paid girlfriend fine, a whore who eventually sleeps with Tripp for his parents' dough, just to keep him from finding out that she's not who he thinks she is.
It goes without saying that this is all played for lightheaded laughs. Failure to Launch, directed by Shanghai Noon's Tom Dey, has all the gravitas of a midseason-replacement sitcom. One can imagine how this could become a series: Each week, Paula collects a paycheck by dating a loser a comic-collecting fanboy, a D&D dork who still lives in his folks' basement and mooches off the kindness of kin.
But beneath the sitcom sheen is a darker movie about broken people who use convenient, pitiful excuses to keep from growing up and moving on. Tripp and Paula and Paula's roommate, Kit (played by the dour, deadpan Zooey Deschanel), who would rather kill a mockingbird outside her bedroom window than engage in a meaningful relationship are all so damaged, they would need years of therapy were this an indie film and not some Hollywood hackwork by the guy who made Showtime and a writer whose sitcom credits include stints on Grace Under Fire and Becker. It would have been fascinating to see this same premise handled with a straight face. You laugh at these people but also have sympathy for them; they need each other because no one else in the world would ever get them.
McConaughey comes by his callowness easily; he's Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in one ripped, baked body, and he has built his career on playing guys who are in over their pretty little heads. Parker has the harder job here. Whereas Tripp is allowed to stumble through the movie, grinning his way through a freeloading life, Paula is forced to justify her rather sordid existence to Kit and, finally, to Tripp and his friends. She ought to be unlikable her entire life is built on leading on men and dumping them so she can cash their folks' paychecks but Parker invests Paula with enough humor and poise to keep her from being unredeemable. Paula is merely a Carrie Bradshaw who ditched the lib-lit career path for something more profitable: screwing for cash. Which is how everyone in Hollywood makes a living, one way or another.