For me to tell you that the new romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” is a predictable movie is equally predictable. Anyone who’s read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or seen any of its cinematic variations knows exactly how it’s going to end. You can only hope the journey will be worth the trip to the expected destination. It isn’t.
Matthew McConaughey is Connor Mead, a popular photographer whose prime passion in life is seducing and leaving women. He sleeps around with so many women that he has to break up with three of them simultaneously on a video conference call. Connor would rather “swim in a lake of sex” because love, as he describes it, “is just magical comfort food for the weak and uneducated.”
After wrapping up a photo shoot and adding another notch to his bedpost, Connor is off to his boyhood home for the rehearsal of his younger brother Paul’s wedding. His first order of business upon arrival is to pull aside Paul, played by Breckin Meyer, and offer him the keys to his car so he can escape before it’s too late. As it turns out, Connor’s first love, Jenni Perotti, played by Jennifer Garner, is a member of the wedding party. She’s made it her mission to make sure Connor doesn’t spoil the engaged couple’s happiness.
Enter Uncle Wayne, who is to Connor what the ghostly Jacob Marley was to Scrooge. Played delightfully by Michael Douglas, Uncle Wayne taught young Connor everything he knows about women. As he puts it, “when it comes to dames, I got a gift.” Uncle Wayne, a Hugh Hefner wannabe while he walked the earth, raised Connor and Paul after their parents died. The dearly departed uncle now appears to Connor to warn him that the womanizing path he’s traveling will only lead to loneliness. Like Marley, he explains that three spirits – the ghosts of his girlfriends past, present and future – will visit him to drive this lesson home.
Uncle Wayne is also the oddest part of this film. He comes back from the grave to warn his nephew about the dangers of his choices, but it seems clear throughout the movie that this is a lesson that he hasn’t learned. It’s confirmed when he eventually tries to pick up all three female ghosts.
The first of the three ghosts, representing girlfriends past, is the most entertaining by far. Emma Stone plays Allison Vandermeersh, Connor’s first conquest, although when we see the moment they first met, she seems to be the one doing the conquering. Their time together lasted only 39 minutes, she informs him, and was “the best two-thirds of an hour of my life.”
We soon learn that Connor’s lasciviousness stems from the heartbreak he felt in junior high when his one true love, Jenni, danced with and kissed another guy at the school dance. After that, and with tutelage from Uncle Wayne, Connor never allowed himself to become too close to another woman again. His dalliances are guided by a single creed: “The power of a relationship lies with whoever cares less.”
If all you want out of a romantic comedy is a few laughs and a predictable story, you may not mind “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.” Like its source material, it reminds us that no scoundrel, whether a curmudgeon or a cad, is beyond redemption. While we still have breath, we can choose to turn our lives around.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference.
Director: Mark Waters
Writers: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Cast: Matthew McConaughey: Connor Mead; Jennifer Garner: Jenni Perotti; Michael Douglas: Uncle Wayne; Breckin Meyer: Paul Mead; Lacey Chabert: Sandra Volkom; Robert Forster: Sergeant Volkom; Anne Archer: Vonda Volkom; Emma Stone: Allison Vandermeersh.
The movie’s official web site is here.
Michael Leathers the copy editor for EthicsDaily.com and the former editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.