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Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
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by Erik Childress

"Married - Good. Single - Bad. Die - Alone"
2 stars

Movies like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past have a tendency to rub me the wrong way. Not because it stars Matthew McConaughey, who has become a magnet for bad rom-coms since How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. But because it presents the societal affront that true love and marriage are the keys to a happy life and then manages in no way to present its argument in a manner that could make single guys think ďyeah, Iím really missing out.Ē Not that true love isnít worth attaining or that marriage doesnít work for some people, but the way films like this turn it into an agenda of religious and political proportions is a bit thickheaded and it better be working overtime on the wit or presenting a counterargument fresh enough to convince George Clooney heís been in the wrong all these years.

McConaughey this go round plays Connor Mead, a successful and handsome fashion photographer who is around scantily clad women all day in his studio, his office and his bed. Heís the kind of guy who can have a model stripped down to her undies against her wishes, put her life in mortal danger by having a 6th place olympian shoot an apple off her head, get her to jump him and then break-up with three women at a time on a video conference call. Lucky guy, huh? His brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer) is getting married this weekend which Connor shows up to and jumps the gun on the whole ďhe who objectsĒ portion; albeit just to the brother he helped raise after their parents died. Connorís father figure turned out to be his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) and even though heís shuffled off the mortal coil too, heís going to make an appearance this weekend.

As the filmís resident Jacob Marley, Uncle Wayne tells Connor heís going to be visited by three ghosts in the hopes of turning around his ways for good. Speaking of girlfriends past, Connorís childhood pal, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) is on the bridal party. She still has some cynical feelings about the way they left things years ago and they trade barbs about his constant innuendoes and resistance to an emotional commitment of any kind. Ghost #1 turns out to be Alison Vandermeersh, a braces-flaunting dweeb, played by the wonderful Emma Stone, who jumped the boy at a basement party and nabbed his virginity. She takes him through his days with Jenny, the girl he swore to never forget and onto Uncle Wayneís training of teenage Connor and the consummation (and eventual resolution) of Connor & Jennyís relationship. The Present ghost is Connorís spiteful assistant, Melanie (Noureen DeWulf) and Ghost #3 is a hot mute babe who presents the Dickensian finality that has been the bane of lectured single guys including ultimate poonhound, James T. Kirk. Weíre all going to die alone.

The difference between one Ebenezer Scrooge and Connor Mead though is that one of them isnít an entirely unlikable guy. Sure he breaks a number of womenís hearts and has a selfish streak, but it made more sense that Paul Rudd didnít have any guy friends in I Love You, Man, than it does for Connor. Maybe he doesnít have any time for dudes because heís having threesomes left and right, but its one of the many little details that screenwriters Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (Four Christmases and this summerís The Hangover) leave out that could have provided a lot more depth to both Connor and their ultimate message. No bros before hoes in Connorís life, except of course for Paul who has been written just in lockstep with not the beats of Bob Cratchit but actually of John Murray who played the forgiving brother of miserly Bill in Scrooged! Breckin Meyer (working his way through the Party of Five gals with Jennifer Love Hewitt in Garfield and now Lacey Chabert here) plays Paul as just a mope who has to be getting married because the screenplay tells him to; never giving us a reason to believe why he so wants this union to Chabertís neurotic perfectionist or why he doesnít share his brotherís thick Southern accent.

These are trivial matters in the grand scheme, but Ghosts of Girlfriends Past makes no effort to be anything but A Christmas Carol knockoff for the female set, putting all of the hardships on the guys and never taking responsibility for their own creation. When we see Connor Meadís early years itís like watching those deoderant commercials where the hunky sports figures were once big dorks with the ladies. Connorís trigger went off after Jenny ditched him at prom to go off with a jock. The argument being that he choked on making his move; an argument made by both Jenny and Alisonís ghost. Women! How Ďbout that Alison too? Think she was an enabler at that party providing Connor with the confidence that he could just enter a room and get sex? Uncle Wayne surely planted a few seeds, during what are the best scenes in the film even if you canít feel a direct lift from Campbell Scottís womanizing uncle in Roger Dodger (which less people will have seen than Ghosts of Girlfriends Past by 4 PM on opening day.) But how does Uncle Wayne go from a Robert Evans-like lothario, who apparently drank and screwed until the day he died, to someone regretting the lifestyle choice he built for himself? Did he once have a Jenny? Did he treat his friends like crap? These are necessities if weíre supposed to understand why loving one person for the rest of our lives is better than giving a little love to everyone.

The closest the screenplay gets to actually calling out a little equal blame for both the sexes is late in the film when Chabertís three whorish bridesmaids (and Chabert herself) get a little chiding from Connor over the way they takes arms against his brother for an indiscretion that was a two-way street and lacks even the sort of debate instituted by Ross & Rachelís ďbreakĒ on Friends. Why are all these women (and we see they number in the hundreds) seeking true love with a guy like Connor and then devastated when he breaks things off? How long do you have to be with a woman for her to be considered a ďgirlfriend?Ē Is two weeks enough to make it into the fantasy pool? How Ďbout 48 seconds? With the exception of Jenny, every woman in the film looks at Connor as the tender slice of McConaughey meat that he is so letís not pretend men are the only superficial species out there. Itís like people running off to see Obsessed and then bitching that there are no good movies out there.

Groundhog Day this is certainly not. Nor is it even Scrooged which is clearly the template the writers were masking right down to Jennifer Garner playing the Karen Allen role. Ignore the comparisons to Dickens in any form though and you still have a pretty mediocire romantic comedy that suffers in great part from the lack of chemistry from ANY of the characters who are supposed to be in love or longing for it. Itís hard to make a successful film intent on showing the importance of feelings when thereís not a single recognizable one on screen. Michael Douglas is very funny in his few scenes (although I still urge you to go rent Roger Dodger) and Robert Forster gets in a couple good laughs as Chabertís Marine-intensive father. You know youíre in the middle of a desperate comedy though when many of the scenes are peppered with cutesy music (courtesy this time of Rolfe Kent) including putting a military march behind Forsterís introduction. You also know youíre watching a bare-bones, witless screenplay when the writers canít merge the Dickensian parable with the morals of modern-day casual sex by making a good old-fashioned Yet-To-Come joke about the final ghost. OK, Iíll probably die alone.

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originally posted: 05/01/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

5/13/09 Ming A vering boring movie...acting is pretty bad 1 stars
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  01-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Sep-2009


  DVD: 22-Sep-2009

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