Surprise! It's Matthew McConaughey! In a romantic comedy! Surprise! Yes, the McConaughey is back with another predictable romantic comedy, this one starring Jennifer Garner. Thankfully, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past has a funny enough premise that it can at least somewhat make up for its cliché pitfalls.
In the movie, McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a fashion photographer who has a reputation for being the playboy of playboys. If there's a beautiful woman in the room, the odds are that Connor has slept with her - or will have by the end of the night. So when he travels home for his brother's wedding, he immediately makes himself the center of attention - and disaster. But all is not lost. His dead uncle (Michael Douglas) appears to guide him through how he turned out the way he turned out, and how he can change and win back the girl of his dreams. The girl of his dreams, if you haven't guessed, is played by Jennifer Garner, who, conveniently, is the maid of honor at his brother's wedding.
As far as romantic comedies go, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is nothing special. Garner and McConaughey start off hating each other and by the end of the night are back in love, despite sharing very little screen time together or having that much in common. It's not all that funny or romantic, though that generally hasn't been a requirement to be successful in the past. All in all, the movie is pretty unremarkable.
McConaughey, as is usually the case, embraces his role with gusto. He seems to have had a lot of fun in the role, which isn't surprising since he gets to fool around with a ridiculous amount of beautiful women. He plays the asshole incredibly well, and does so consistently. This is his most entertaining role in years.
As they did with this year's biggest comedic hit The Hangover, screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore struck a great concept here. The "Christmas Carol" angle is a pretty unique approach, and one that pays dividends in several scenes. As a result, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, while generic, manages to look like something a little more respectable at times.
Unfortunately, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is no Hangover. Ghosts plays on its premise but never embraces it; Lucas and Moore seemed hesitant to fully commit to the idea they presumably conceived. Instead of applying a romantic comedy angle to the concept, the concept is squished into the format of a standard romantic comedy, and thus the concept rarely gels. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past could have been great, but instead it's merely routine. Director Mark Waters, who has helmed such quality films as The Spiderwick Chronicles, Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, does little to elevate the material; the movie looks, feels and sounds like a Hollywood machine job, nothing more.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past has its moments and benefits from a strong performance by McConaughey, but the movie fails to live up to its potential. As a romantic comedy, there is nothing particularly cute or heartwarming, either.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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