Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) [PG-13] ***

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol meets Casanova in this story of Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey), a handsome womanizer who gets his comeuppance in a very unusual way. Connor is a successful fashion photographer who has slept with nearly every attractive female he's ever met. The women flock to him even though he insults them to their faces and treats them like disposable tissues, even breaking up with three of them at once in a conference call, while his newest conquest sits on his bed and watches.

Now, Connor's younger brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) is getting married. Paul idolizes Connor and invites him to be part of the wedding, although Connor is not really welcome since he's slept with every bridesmaid but one, and is very vocal in his condemnation of romantic love and marriage. The wedding weekend is taking place at the home of Connor and Paul's late Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), who raised the boys after their parents died in a car accident. Wayne was the consummate player, who taught Connor everything he knew about picking up women, tricking them into having sex and using their own emotions against them, with the result that Connor grew up oversexed and lonely, out of touch with his feelings, and without a clue about what women really want.

Then, the night before the wedding, Connor is haunted by Uncle Wayne, and by the ghost of Allison (Emma Stone), his first teenage conquest, who takes him on a tour of his romantic history so he can appreciate the heartache he's caused. Connor meets the ghosts of his many past, present and future girlfriends, and observes the end of his own life. He also sees the future ghost of Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) who was Connor's first love, who's the bride's best friend and is in the wedding party, and for whom, Connor discovers, he still has strong feelings.

Co-written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (Four Christmases), the screenplay feels somewhat derivative, although there is some witty and wonderful commentary on manhood, marriage and monogamy, and the cast does excellent work with what they're given. The basic premise of the story is that if you live a bachelor lifestyle, promise women something and don't deliver, your dreams will be haunted by your misdeeds and you will end up old, lonely and miserable, desperate for love and companionship. Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Just Like Heaven, The Spiderwick Chronicles) there's a clear story arc, good character development, fast pacing, tight editing, and some reasonably funny scenes that successfully avoid the descent into slapstick comedy. There's surprisingly good romantic chemistry between McConaughey and Garner, and the supporting cast includes Lacey Chabert as the bride, and Anne Archer and Robert Forster, as her mother and father. If you enjoyed films like What Women Want with Mel Gibson, Alfie with Jude Law, or Failure to Launch with Matthew McConaughey, then you'll probably enjoy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Labels: comedy, fantasy, romance, wedding    
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 34/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=42, viewers=62)    

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