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FAILURE TO LAUNCH In this sputtering romantic comedy, Matthew McConaughey plays Tripp, a 35-year-old who still lives at home with his parents (Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates). Anxious to get their grown boy out of the house, the folks hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), a professional consultant who -- get this -- makes a career out of building up the self-esteem of adult males still living at home by romancing them and then dumping them once they feel independent enough to move out on their own. McConaughey and Parker try, but they can't save a premise as insipid as this one. Instead, the fun can be found in the margins: Bradley Cooper and Justin Bartha have their moments as Tripp's friends, Zooey Deschanel adds some much-needed edge as Paula's droll roommate, and Bates and Bradshaw invest their characters' relationship with the humor and empathy that's sorely missing from the top-billed stars' dalliances. **

FIREWALL If ever there existed a compelling argument as to why Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford should not proceed with their long-marinating plan to make a fourth Indiana Jones movie, here it is in the form of Firewall. At 63, Ford is looking his age; by the time the Indy flick rolls, he'll be more at ease cracking arthritic joints than cracking that whip. Here, his upstanding character is a computer wiz who must save his wife (Virginia Madsen) and kids from a Eurotrash bandit (Paul Bettany) blackmailing him into ripping off the bank at which he works. Joe Forte's screenplay grows exceedingly ludicrous, and a wasted Madsen doesn't even warrant an Anne Archer moment to call her own. As for Ford, the twinkle of mischievousness and sprinkle of levity that he brought to his most memorable films are missing here, replaced by a cranky fatigue that's difficult to watch and impossible to enjoy. Indiana Jones 4 is a terrible idea, but might we suggest a remake of On Golden Pond as an alternate? **

THE LIBERTINE Bawdy period sex comedies hearken back at least to Tom Jones, and at first glance, The Libertine appears to be an attempt to jump-start the sub-genre, to steer the costume epic back to a sensibility that owes as much to Benny Hill as to any literary tome. The film tells the story of John Wilmot (aka the second Earl of Rochester), the 17th century poet, playwright and sex fiend who spends the film's running time cruelly berating nearly everyone who enters his atmosphere. In casting the role of Rochester, the filmmakers had the right idea by turning to the fearless Depp, but ultimately, he's not required to do more than mix profanity with profundity and allow himself to be subjected to lengthy sessions in the makeup artist's chair. For all its attempts to startle us with its vulgarity, this underdeveloped movie never locates a defining method to its messiness; ultimately, it possesses all the shock value of a toddler yelling, "Poopy!" **1/2

THE PINK PANTHER Despite his own comic credentials, Steve Martin is playing a dead man's hand here. Peter Sellers' particular brand of comic genius was evident in his recurring portrayal of bumbling Inspector Clouseau, and try as he might, Martin is never able to make the role his own. Were the movie surrounding him a top-flight comedy, it might be easier to let him slide, but this picture is as clumsy as its leading figure, an uncomfortable attempt to tap into the essence of the classic Panther films while updating it for modern audiences who might not know Inspector Clouseau from Inspector Javert. There are a few bright moments, but for the most part, the gags aren't particularly fresh, mildly amusing bits are repeated until they lose every ounce of appeal, and Martin unwisely softens the character's hard edges. *1/2

THE SHAGGY DOG Borrowing elements from 1959's The Shaggy Dog and 1976's The Shaggy D.A. but mostly wandering off in its own direction, this turkey -- excuse me, dog -- casts Tim Allen as a lawyer who periodically turns into a canine after being bitten by a 300-year-old sheepdog. Allen is given far too many opportunities to grotesquely ham it up -- for his next film, how about a nice, quiet role as a corpse? -- while Spencer Breslin adds to our misery as Allen's son, a dweeb with a jones for all things Grease (his rendition of "You're the One That I Want" sounds like a cat being shoved tail-first into a blender). In between Allen's mugging and the lame slapstick sequences, we're treated to a parade of creepy CGI effects; still, even these aren't as disturbing as the sight of Allen lifting his leg while using a urinal, or a shaggy Allen telling another dog that "maybe later" he'll sniff his butt. *

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