Can McConaughey Re-'Launch' His Career?

Once touted as the next Marlon Brando or Paul Newman, Matthew McConaughey, the 36-year-old "Sexiest Man Alive," has had a 13-year career with a few box-offices gems and a fair share of clunkers.

His new romantic comedy, "Failure to Launch," opens this weekend. It's the story of a dysfunctional grown-up who still lives with his parents — and his mom and dad hire a seductress, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, to imbue him with self-esteem and coax him into leaving the nest.

The title of the film is ironic. The easygoing McConaughey may be content with his happenstance career, but given the amount of attention he's received — including his ongoing, high-profile romance with Spanish sexpot Penelope Cruz — there's no doubt studio suits are hoping his career gets a second-stage boost.

"The industry always wants more movie stars," says David Poland, editor of the Hollywood insider Web site The Hot Button, "so there's desperation at all times. Plus we're in a period where there aren't that many bankable stars.

"Matthew is a case where he's proven not to be a very range-y talent. He's very specific and he's very good at doing the lanky, goofy, good-looking-guy thing. He kind of reached past that because he was supposed to be a wide-ranging star. That didn't work out. So he's going back to romantic comedy."

After well-received co-starring roles in "Dazed and Confused" and the acclaimed John Sayles film "Lone Star," McConaughey landed the lead in the John Grisham adaptation "A Time to Kill," which raked in $108 million in domestic box office and made him an A-list star.

Other $100 million hits included Jodie Foster's 1997 search-for-intelligent-aliens flick "Contact" and the 2003 hit "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," a romantic-comedy pairing him with Kate Hudson.

In between those tent posts, however, have been duds like "The Newton Boys," "EdTV," the WWII submarine bomb "U-571" and the chemistry-challenged "The Wedding Planner," with Jennifer Lopez.

His last two films were the heavily hyped "Sahara," which cost $130 million but grossed barely half that in the U.S., and "Two for the Money," which slipped in and out of theaters despite co-star Al Pacino.

"Failure to Launch" is something of a companion piece to the role he played in "Dazed and Confused." In both movies, McConaughey ostensibly played a loser — one was a twentysomething grease monkey lurking around high-school parties, the other lives with his parents — but both characters are winning in their refusal to change due to others' attitudes.

McConaughey says of his alter ego, "Tripp doesn't want to leave the cushy nest. [His mom] fixes his breakfast every morning, she does his laundry, she keeps his room clean. He's really got it great.

"Working from that point of view with a character like this ... gives him a dignified, humorous and light way to move forward."

McConaughey also just signed on to play Marshall University football coach Jack Lengyel, who took over the Thundering Herd program after a 1970 plane crash killed 74 players, coaches and staff.

But, like the character in his new movie, McConaughey's working at his own speed.

"I get to know places when I go there and meet the people, hang out, become a sort of a local, and that can take weeks sometimes," he says. "My trailer's called a canoe and highways are like streams."