Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)
The Love Scrooge
It's all for your own good. And what's not for your own good is for my entertainment - Uncle Wayne
Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey - Tropic Thunder) is on top of his game, be it photographing models or scoring one hot date after another. But that is all about to change when he attends his younger brother's wedding on a mission to talk him out of marriage. After the rehearsal dinner he gets a visit from his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas - You, Me and Dupree), the man who taught him everything there is to no about getting women and also getting rid of them, except having died many years earlier Uncle Wayne is a ghost. And Uncle Wayne is not the only ghostly visitor Connor gets as he also gets visits from ghosts from his past, present and future all trying to show him the error of his ways when it comes to women and in particular Jenny (Jennifer Garner - Juno) who was his first crush and the one who really understands him.
"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is an interesting idea, take the essence of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" with the visitation of 4 ghosts to show someone the error of their ways and combine it with a romantic comedy. It makes "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" better than your average romantic comedy with some genuinely clever scenes and casting but the cleverness of it ends up wasted in favour of routine rom-com nonsense and a surprisingly shallow ending. It's also wasted when sentiment is mistaken for romance and a funny scene becomes cloying because it goes too far. As such "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is an improvement on your run of the mill romantic comedy but sadly a wasted opportunity to create something genuinely clever and different.
What is good about "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is the ingenuity of using Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" to create a romantic comedy about a love rat being shown the error of his ways. It keeps that essence of Dickens' tale with the 4 ghosts visiting Connor as they take him through all the pivotal moments of his life, those which have happened and those which are yet to come if he doesn't change his ways. Some elements are dropped, we may have snow on the ground but this isn't the day before Christmas but the day before his brother's wedding, who in Dickens' style is the one who still believes in him despite running out of patience with his selfish ways. To put it simply this is a movie which if you've seen any of the countless versions of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" will be able to see where it is all going.
And adding to what is good about this is re-imagining of Dickens' tale is that central to everything is the relationship of Connor and Jenny. You can guess that these two are destined to be together but watching how over the years it was their friendship which not only lead him to following his Uncle's advice when it came to women but also becoming a shallow love rat makes for some fun scenes. Those fun scenes include a wonderful performance from Michael Douglas as Connor's Uncle and mentor who taught him everything he needed to know about getting women and leaving them before the spooning starts.
But here is the thing whilst this set up of re-imagining Dickens' tale and turning it into a rom-com is a clever one "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" sadly never becomes much more than a rom-com where the guy gets the girl he is destined to be with. And as such there is plenty of generic rom-com set pieces which form the basis of much of the humour and many of which are quite weak. A scene which sees Connor having an accident with the wedding cake is as pointless as Robert Forster as Sergeant Volkom the father of the bride and a man who is all about his time in Korea. It becomes a case that for every moment of cleverness there are a couple of jokes which end up stupid and flat.
It doesn't really help matters that in casting Matthew McConaughey in the central role of Connor you have an actor who brings a lot of rom-com cliche with him. Actually it sort of works in the build up as he is this slick womanizer who is so shallow that dumping 3 women by conference call doesn't bother him. But then when it comes to that redemption having been shown the error of his ways McConaughey plays Connor pretty much the same as before, the only difference is that he learns what is important.
Whilst McConaughey may not have been the best casting the rest is pretty good from Michael Douglas as his womanizing Uncle through to Lacey Chabert who is brilliantly over the top as stressed out bride to be Sandra. But the best casting is the fact we have Jennifer Garner cast opposite McConaughey as Jenny. Now to be honest Garner doesn't actually do anything that brilliant, she is simply lovely but it makes a change from Kate Hudson and that simple change helps to make "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" feel a bit more than just another Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy.
What this all boils down to is that "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is an entertaining movie and a little better than many romantic comedies but that is purely down to the clever use of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to tell the story of a love rat who is shown the error of his ways. Without that cleverness much of the movie falls into being a generic rom-com with very little to make it better than any other.
Tags: A Christmas Carol
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