Apr 2009 30

ghosts-of-girlfriends-pastThe most amazing thing I can think of about Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is that its star Matthew McConaughey manages to keep his shirt on for pretty much the entire movie.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a retooling of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol, instead of being shown his miserly ways, the main character played by McConaughey, Connor Mead is shown his change from an idealistic romantic into a womanizing jerk. He is of course visited by three ghosts, actually four if you include his late Uncle Wayne, who taught him his womanizing ways.  Connor although not believing in love travels to his brother’s wedding being held at his Uncle Wayne’s sprawling estate. He continues to tell everyone of the sham that is love. Seemingly the only person who stands up to him is Jenny, played Jennifer Garner.  After making a fool of himself and ruining as much as possible he is visited by the ghost of his Uncle Wayne telling him he will be visited by three ghosts. From there on out it follows a similar vein to The Christmas Carol, only without as much convincing redemption.

The main flaw of the movie is that the main character even after he starts his redemption is so much of a slimeball that he is very hard to relate to. For the first half of the movie you are bombarded by his stupidity and general offensiveness, that when it comes time for his character to make the turn around it doesn’t seem very believable. What makes it even more hard to believe is that other people accept this change with almost no qualms. A literal over night change is accepted to easily you have trouble believing anyone thought bad about him before.

Almost all the performances come in as over the top. McConaughey and Douglas sleeze it up so bad that it almost makes you want to cringe. Douglas is such a caricature that it borders on being ridiculous. His portrayal of the character Uncle Wayne makes Gorden Gekko look like less of a slimeball. Granted, it seems to be the way it was supposed to be portrayed, but it is hard to believe anyone that cheesy could be that popular with women (which may show a big lack in my understanding of women).  McConaughey at least has the chiseled good looks and a certain charm about him to make you believe he could be “the Connor Mead”.

Jennifer Garner seems to do the best work in the film, you can see why such a huge tool such as Connor would fall for someone like her.  She is sweet and feisty, and always a strong character.  At times I found myself wishing she would go for the guy brought in for her “wedding sex”, just for the fact that he seemed like someone who would treat her much better than Connor Mead.

The supporting cast does it’s job, but nothing standouts. There were no characters that provided a stand out performance. Breckin Meyer who I always thought has shown promise (maybe it is just that I like Robot Chicken a bit too much) is reduced to a one note character in this. He is one of the only people who believes in his brother. He is the yin to his brother’s yang.  There is not enough screen time devoted to the two of them to show the strong relationship they are supposed to have.

It has all the conventions of a McConaughey movie, guy starts out as a good looking unsentimental jerk, but overall just falls flat in attempting to spin a new take on an older and much better story.  It isn’t to say you can’t have a little fun watching the movie. The best praise I can give it is saying that I never got truly bored during it.  Ghosts of Girlfriends Past could have used a little more work and a little more polish to make it a more complete film.

I give it a 3.5/10.

A Second Take by Zac:

Matthew McConaughey’s latest romantic comedy is neither anything special, nor a terribly horrible experience with a couple of good laughs mixed in for good measure. Connor Mead is a successful fashion photographer that jumps from woman to woman with no remorse at all as he shatters there heart. When Connor’s brother is set to get married, Connor heads up to their Uncle Wayne’s mansion where the two grew up after their parents were killed in an unfortunate auto accident. Uncle Wayne carried himself as Connor does in the present and was long Connor’s mentor until his eventual passing. Attending as the maid of honor at wedding is Connor’s old flame and possibly the only women he ever loved, Jenny, but those times are long in the rearview mirror for the “great Connor Mead”. Jenny and Connor quickly bounce back and forth against each other, butting heads, as Connor immediately reminds his brother it isn’t too late yet, while Jenny tries to shut him up and keep things on track for her friend the bride. As the rehearsal ends and a wedding eve party of some sorts kicks off, Connor encounters the ghost of his Uncle Wayne in the bathroom and warns him that he will be visited by the ghosts of his girlfriends past and that they will hopefully show him the way off the path he is heading and not ultimately end up like his good ole Uncle Wayne; who after countless women was ultimately alone. Without fail, Connor is visited by his first ever girlfriend and begins on a path to possible peace and redemption or a life being alone and leaving a sad existence behind. Now, I will say this, Mark Waters film made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions and if you enjoy McConaughey doing what he does best, playing a kind of sleazy womanizer, there is plenty to like in this picture. That said, the film itself is a bit of a mess and seems like a random smattering of scenes more than a cohesive story that works very well. For instance, the whole set up of the evening seems like it is lasting until the wee hours of the morning as Connor jumps in and out of his ghost adventures and he just keeps coming back to the rest of the party doing random acts and it all doesn’t make a lot of sense. Since the story has to take place over one night, the supporting roles are left to operate in this awkward party that doesn’t make a lot of sense and by half way through the movie their side of the story just seems very contrived and is there hoping you don’t realize that it doesn’t make much sense while you focus on the lead and his adventures. Also, the story doesn’t seem to quite balance the ghost world to the real world very well and can’t really settle on where it wants to focus on the most, with some ghost detours lasting far longer than others. Also, the whole “wedding sex” plotline added in for the sake of giving Connor competition for Jenny seemed just as contrived and pointless as the structure of the evening of activities for the non lead actors. The pacing of the film is also a bit off, as it tends to drag once we get through the first ghost of girlfriends past. And also, don’t expect any crazy flashes of originality or anything like that, as the film stays pretty par for the course. The writing can be pretty sharp dialogue wise at times; you just wish they would have done something to freshen up this old plot device and kind of make it their own. The actors in the film are decent across the board though, besides an oddly weak turn by Jennifer Garner. Now, I don’t know if it was her as much as it might have been the way her character is written, but I might be able to lean on the later of the two. Jenny and Connor instantly fall into this back and forth and she acts like they never separated for the last however many years and as she tries to wrangle him into submission of the true point of them being here, the wedding, I just didn’t buy into their chemistry or the fact that she could just know how to control him after all these years. And even in the flashbacks, we don’t get the idea that she has this power over him; except to stay his penis for a series of dates. I don’t know the whole package of Garner and her character weren’t working for me, and it’s a shame because I usually enjoy her a lot. Michael Douglas plays Uncle Wayne and takes full advantage of his scenes. Consistently funny and obviously having a lot of fun, Douglas turns up the sleaze and it’s a blast to watch him go to work; and I think we get the just right amount of him in the picture. Breckin Meyer is adequate as Connor’s brother Paul, and really only has one scene to really shine, and he nails it, but he doesn’t help sell the obligatory, ‘Connor you ruined everything’ scene you knew was coming. Lacey Chabert is really funny again in this picture and she is usually solid for a few laughs in everything she is in. But here she gets to have a lot of fun as a bridezilla of sorts and just hits all the right notes for the character. Emma Stone might be the best part of the movie though as the young and hyper ghost of girlfriends past. She is just border line crazy as child of the 80’s and she is fun to watch every time she is on screen. Lastly, McConaughey is great as the womanizing Mead. Sure it is a character we have seen him do before but that doesn’t mean it is any less fun. The man’s charm and charisma make him instantly likeable and fun to watch. In the end, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is an average chick flick that supplies some laughs in a rather straight forward picture. The actors range from good to average with no one really standing out, except for maybe Stone, but McConaughey keeps things fun and light I just wish him and Garner had more chemistry. The film could have been trimmed a bit, and some unconventionality would have been more then welcome to the picture, but the film is what it is and you can at least find some entertainment out of it; just don’t expect it to revolutionize the genre by any means.



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