May 7, 2009

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Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (PG-13)
Matthew McConaughey plays what is fast becoming the stock Matthew McCongaughey character (womanizer, bit of a sleaze, Peter Pan complex) in the off-putting Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a forced-march romantic-comedy-style through A Christmas Carol.

Connor Mead (McConaughey) is a photographer who has a new lady every night — or sometimes many ladies. When we meet him, he’s bedding a new young singer and breaking up with three other women by video conference. He doesn’t believe in long-term (i.e. staying all night) commitment and certainly doesn’t believe in marriage. Despite that, he plans to head to the large family home that was once owned by his late Hugh Hefner-ish Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas, looking more Kurt-like all the time) for his brother Paul’s (Breckin Meyer) wedding. Among the bridesmaids for Paul’s fiancée Sandra (Lacey Chabert, who actually does a pretty good job with the one-note bridezilla shtick she’s given) is Jenny (Jennifer Garner), a girl who was Connor Mead’s first love and perpetually the One Who Got Away. For Jenny, Connor was the One She Wanted To Fix. It’s under this cloud of tensions that Connor is greeted by his dead Uncle Wayne in the bathroom telling him that all this tomcatting is no way to live and saying that to convince him of this Connor will be visited by three ghosts who will walk him through his romantic past, present and future.

McConaughey and Garner have zero romantic chemistry but the problems with this movie started long before that. Connor is an unappealing character — love ’em and leave ’em is all we get in terms of a personality description but we see nothing in the scenes before he starts his journey to make you think that the women he leaves wouldn’t be perfectly happy to see him go. The movie sets him up as some Casanova who wins the heart of every woman he meets, but there’s nothing winning about him. It would be more realistic to think that the girlfriends past see him as a fun but thankfully long-past fling. Instead, the movie sets him up as a prize that all these “girlfriends” still want — a position that makes him seem even more unlikeable and phony. Add the stale wedding humor and the lackluster “romance” and all you’re left with is exactly one funny scene — one that winks at the “you, there, lad, tell me, what day is this?” part of A Christmas Carol. Though that book is where this movie pulls its inspiration, that one scene is really the only time the movie has any fun with its source material.

The rest of the movie is painful — and painfully dated. Douglas’ Uncle Wayne is stuck in the 1970s, which is almost funny, but Connor (also acting like a leader of the sexual revolution even though he’s a child of the 1980s) seems out of date in any era. D+

Rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference. Directed by Mark Waters and written by John Lucas and Scott Moore, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is an hour and 55 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.