A 2006 romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey, known if for any reason for a subplot with Zooey Deschanel and Justin Bartha widely agreed to be far more interesting than the main plot.
At 35, Tripp (McConaughey) has an interesting job, a hip car, a passion for sailing, and a great house - trouble is, he lives with his parents. They want him out, so they hire Paula (Parker), an "interventionist" who specializes in a phenomenon she calls "failure to launch", who pretends to date her clients' adult children to bolster their confidence and social skills (or maybe shame them) to get them to leave home. She has a simple formula: stage a quirky chance encounter, get him to ask her out, involve him in a trauma, meet his friends and get their nod, delay sex, have him teach her something, then launch him. It's worked up to now, but this gets complicated when Tripp thinks she's getting too serious and one of his pals is attracted to Paula's deadpan, semi-alcoholic roommate Kit (Deschanel), who's plagued by a mockingbird. Too many secrets may scrub the launch, and what if Paula really likes him? Who can intervene then?
Tropes present in Failure to Launch include:
- Basement-Dweller: Ace is presented this way at first, though as Kit gets to know him she finds out that he's actually living in an extension of his family's house and paying his mother rent while working on an internet startup. Paula's normal clientele seem to be more straightforward examples however.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Unlike the stereotypical Basement-Dweller, Tripp actually has a lucrative job as a yacht broker and so has the skillset and finances to achieve independence. He's just too comfortable with his mother enabling him to leave.
- Broken Aesop: The film seems to take a negative slant on adults who still live with their parents, to the point that Tripp is portrayed as an Enemy to All Living Things because he's "out of harmony with nature and nature knows it." Every other man in the situation is exempt because there's some reason that makes it so they're not living with their parents. Even then Tripp is not portrayed as one of the more negative types of Basement-Dweller; he's not staying at home because he's lazy, immature and/or cowardly - yet he's the only one getting attacked by animals for it.
- Casual Kink: A waitress at the end mentions that she wishes she could talk openly to a guy. When Kit says that it's easier when the guy is tied up, the waitress mentions that she's talked to men who were tied up before.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The entire fake relationship between Tripp and Paula would have been avoided had Al and Sue simply told Paula about Tripp's fiancé. Sue even starts but decides not to follow through on it for whatever reason.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Ace is, like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl examples below, a subversion. Kit only begins to take interest in him after he stops pursuing her and offers her something useful; to whit, a BB gun to kill her mockingbird.
- Enemy to All Living Things: Throughout the movie Tripp is constantly under attack from wildlife. According to Demo, this is because he's "out of harmony with nature' and nature knows it.
- Friend to All Living Things: Demo, rather unlike Tripp.
- Geek Reference Pool: Noticeable to a cringe-worthy degree when Paula is talking to another (supposedly extremely, painfully nerdy and shy) client, and the only thing the writers could think to have him reference is A New Hope.
- Manchild: Tripp, who still expects his parents to cook for him and do his laundry.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played with in multiple ways. Paula's strategy for getting her clients' children to move out is based around her acting like one to make the men she's pretending to date feel wanted and boost their confidence, but it's made clear that this is an act. Meanwhile, Kit appears to be one, playing on her actor's reputation, but she gets more screentime and character development than Dogged Nice Guy Ace, whose attempts to woo her are mostly fruitless. Kit's alcoholism is also portrayed with at least an attempt at seriousness, as Paula notes that underneath her jokes about Champagne Thursday, she really is teetering on the edge of a serious problem.
- Playing with a Trope: Really at the heart of the movie, as the entire plot revolves around Paula's using romcom tropes to fake relationships, and other subversions and deconstructions naturally follow.