Just selfish and immature enough to break your heart, just sweet and handsome enough to win it back. It’s what many women unknowingly look for in a boyfriend and what we all look for in Matthew McConaughey films. Like John Cusack and to a lesser extent Michael Cera, we demand little more, as an audience, except the loveable Texan play himself. And so he does in Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past--very very well. In fact, that’s a problem. Matthew McConaughey is so comfortable in his own McConaugheyness, he seems to be going through the motions for long stretches, leaving his supporting cast looking a little foolish and desperate as they do little more than occupy the same space.
Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a talented photographer by nature, callous womanizer by training. His dearly departed Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) taught him from an early age the only foolproof way to permanently mend a broken heart is by continually breaking new ones. Young ones, old ones, white ones, black ones, skinny ones and fat ones, Connor Mead loves ’em and leaves ’em all. But for every good rule there’s a better exception and behind every mediocre romantic comedy, there’s a girl who got away. This one’s name is Jenny (Jennifer Garner). She doesn’t fall for his lines, tells him he can’t come upstairs and makes him fall in love; until she lets him upstairs and he lets her go.
Of course, he walks back into her life at the wedding of his brother (Breckin Meyer), and after shamelessly hitting on the bride’s mother and every able-bodied woman this side of the Bunny Ranch, Uncle Wayne decides to help in Dickensian fashion by sending in three ghosts with aims on leading Connor back to Jenny and providing a little amusement for himself and the audience. This works, to varying degrees, for both Connor and the audience until all the comfortable notes are struck and the conclusion we’ve all been waiting for rears its good guy head.
Lovable, silly, cute and clichéd at parts, slow, indulgent, misguided and unfunny at others, Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past tries to be a raucous, high-energy fling through a decade of relationships or maybe tries to be a heart-felt, aww-shucks amble through those same relationships. It’s never really made clear, and that’s confusing. Especially for the actors. Some seem to be acting in a comedy with some romance, others a romance with a little comedy. Take for example Lacey Chabert and Emma Stone, two beautiful actresses who so zealously buy into their physical tantrums and verbal harangues, they might have fit in nicely in Wedding Crashers or Harold And Kumar. Yet, in many scenes, they’re acting opposite Breckin Meyer’s straight man from Road Trip and Matthew McConaughey’s laid-back, charming Matthew McConaughey. This different tones, different approaches comedy can work on occasion (see Caddyshack), but here it feels like a jumbled mess of crossed swords, alternating intentions and Michael Douglas. There’s a difference between funny and ha-ha funny and shooting for both only cockblocks everyone.
Director Mark Waters (Mean Girls) is better than this. He should have gotten the script and his actors into the same movie; then again, everyone else should have noticed this project was veering off course. There’s just too much talent here. Addition by addition by subtraction by addition by the cube root of division is nothing more than meh. Just selfish and immature enough to get a thumbs down, just sweet and handsome enough I’ll probably watch it again, I’m not convinced Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past will in any way lighten the stranglehold Matthew McConaughey has on the moderate-budget romantic comedy market, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was step one in a series of three moves which end in a straight-to-dvd Wedding Planner III: Revenge Of The Flowergirl. Alright, alright.