Director: Mark Waters
Notable Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Emma Stone, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Anne Archer, Robert Forster
It doesn’t take much effort to come up with a traditional romantic comedy. The formula is pretty straightforward. You have a boy and girl. At some point there’s conflict. And in the end there’s a loving embrace. Seems simple enough; but it doesn’t always leave the audience fulfilled. So screenwriters and directors try to up the ante by incorporating a creative plot device. It was only a matter of a time before they took Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and gave it a rom-com spin.
Matthew McConaughey plays Conner Mead, a rich and famous Vanity Fair photographer lothario. He loves sex. Not a full-blown addict, but he would rather bed than wed. Conner is the type of guy that would breakup with three girlfriends over a video conference call. And he does. The thought of spooning after sex is more frightening than Indiana Jones in a tomb full of snakes. “Forking is so much more enjoyable," he nonchalantly remarks at one point.
Almost immediately our great expectations of this comedy are dashed with Matthew McConaughey as the romantic lead. The naked bongo-playing goldilocks has had his fair share of romantic comedies over years; he’s the eye candy that gets women to the theater. The problem is that his rom-coms are average at best, because of crazy scenarios that work well on sit-coms but not on the silver screen. At least the outline for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past seems interesting on paper: a romantic comedy mixed with Dickens elements. Combine that with the direction of Mark Waters, who helmed Freaky Friday and Mean Girls previously, the latter of which was written by 30 Rock’s Tina Fey, and there’s a glimmer of hope that this will be a watershed moment for McConaughey in the rom-com genre. Then I remembered that Jon Lucas and Scott Moore penned this. Last year they gave us a lump of coal in Four Christmases.
A Scrooge when it comes love, Conner still acts as the best man at his younger brother’s (Breckin Meyer) wedding. It is there that he comes face to face with Jenny (Jennifer Garner), another member of the wedding party and Conner’s first love – maybe his One and Only. Having repressed those feelings, and replacing them with a revolving door of sexual conquests, Conner is about to get a reality check. On the eve of the wedding he is visited by four ghosts. First comes his long deceased Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas channeling famed Hollywood producer Robert Evans). He’s there to prepare his nephew of what is to come. Over the course of the night Conner sees that his lothario ways have come at the expense of Jenny and now he wants to win her back.
I must admit that McConaughey is good as the chauvinist-pig version of Conner Mead. However, he’s not as endearing to the audience once the transformation occurs. Audiences may laugh at his callousness, but hopefully they won’t laugh at how women are depicted as sexual partners with not much smarts. That’s a big issue with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. All the women know Conner’s reputation, yet they are willing to service his carnal desires.
McConaughey and Garner may be the headliners but the best moments come from the older supporting cast. Michael Douglas as the womanizing uncle that teaches young Conner how to pick up women is comic gold. Robert Forester and Anne Archer also have some good moments in their limited time on screen.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past attempts to spice up the romantic comedy genre with an infusion of Charles Dickens. It’s not overly schmaltzy – thank god – but the execution and climax are handled haphazardly. I also don’t buy Lucas and Moore’s need to break the fourth wall (introducing the song to a flashback montage) or include a wink-wink nudge-nudge reference to A Christmas Carol once Conner awakens from his ghostly night’s sleep.
Still, women are sure to flock to the theaters. It’s an okay diversion, just not a romantic comedy that will be remembered in the months to come.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: 30 Rock, Jennifer Garner, matthew mcconaughey, Mean Girls