Thursday, May 7, 2009
Matthew McConaughey has his shirt on throughout Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Are you ladies still reading? Good, because there’s a lot to enjoy in director Mark Waters’ (Mean Girls) saccharine sweet comedy, including a number of genuinely funny moments and a scene stealing turn from Michael Douglas.
The story is loosely taken from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with a big romantic comedy twist. Connor Mead (McConaughey) is a hotshot photographer who enjoys the endless hedonism of one-stand nights with gorgeous, and preferably nameless, ladies. But Connor’s perspective changes at his brother Paul’s (Breckin Meyer) wedding, and it certainly has nothing to do with Paul’s temperamental fiancé (Lacey Chabert) or her divorced parents (Robert Forster and Anne Archer).
No, this change of heart is more of the supernatural variety. After rudely mocking love and romance at the rehearsal dinner, Connor is visited by the ghost of his late Uncle Wayne (Douglas), who tells him he’ll be visited by three ghosts that will teach him the error of his ways. The first ghost (Emma Stone) takes him to his past, and traces his lifelong affection for Jenny (Jennifer Garner), an alpha-female who holds a special place in Connor’s heart.
The second ghost is his assistant Melanie (Noureen DeWulf), who correctly points out that she’s the only woman who’s consistently in his life. Tough memories, heartache and life-changing revelations ensue, including a look at the bitter future (compliments of the third ghost) that leaves more than just Connor unhappy.s
Of course, no movie as light and fluffy as this can end unhappily. Garner nicely holds her own with McConaughey, although she’s not quite as cute as she used to be, and Chabert plays the shrewish, high-strung bride-to-be perfectly. But it’s Douglas as the lecherous Uncle Wayne who steals the show; Wayne teaches Connor everything he knows about women (a tutorial that starts with a trip to the local bar when Connor was a teenager), and at every moment it’s easy to see Douglas having fun with the role.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than McConaughey as Connor, with the possible exception of Will Smith (though Smith has already played a similar role, in the equally delightful Hitch). The only knock on Smith would be that he’s too likeable; McConaughey is slightly more adept at playing the greasy smarmy loser, which may or may not be a compliment. Regardless, the bright smile and limitless confidence make it easy to see why the ladies love Connor, though how they’re not able to see through his lies is anyone’s guess.
It’s often said that the quality of genre movies is based on how original they are, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past nicely brings a fresh approach to a sometimes very tired romantic comedy genre. Sure it’s predictable, but the predictability never wears on the picture’s immense charm, making it a pleasant experience that will leave you smiling.
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (3) Directed by Mark Waters • Starring Matthew McConaughey, Michael Douglas and Jennifer Garner. PG-13, 100 mins. At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas and Lighthouse Cinemas.