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Pretty Bad92.31%
Total Crap: 7.69%

4 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Bride Wore Blah"
2 stars

“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” is one of those screenplays that has been floating around Hollywood for a while now--at one point, Kevin Smith was potentially going to direct it as a vehicle for Ben Affleck a few years ago until the commercial failure of the latter’s “Gigli” scuttled that for good--without ever quite getting up in front of the cameras until now and having seen it, it isn’t too difficult to discern why. On the one hand, it does have the kind of high-concept premise that the studios love--it can be summed up in a few words, it can be easily grasped by most potential audience members and when you first hear it, it sounds like one of those simple-but-brilliant premises that inspires many an aspiring screenwriter to slap their heads and wonder with grand frustration why it is that they didn’t think of it first. On the other hand, while the basic idea of the film does sound good at first, it soon becomes obvious that the screenwriters either failed in their attempts to transform said wonderful idea into an equally wonderful screenplay or decided that the premise alone was strong enough to carry the entire film. Whichever one it was, the end result is the same--a film that squanders a good idea, some good actors and a couple of very funny moments in the service of a project unworthy of them.

Matthew McConaughey stars as bad-boy photographer Connor Mead, a womanizer of such prodigious means that as the film opens, we see him breaking up with three different women at the same time via video conference call while his next conquest looks on adoringly. To him, the idea of any sort of emotional commitment is anathema and so when he heads out to attend the wedding of his younger brother (Breckin Meyer), it is less to fulfill his duties as best man than it is to convince his brother to bail out on the ceremony entirely. At the rehearsal dinner, Connor acts in increasingly reprehensible ways--he tries to seduce both a bridesmaid and the bride’s mother, he loudly expounds on his view that marriage is for fools and aggravates childhood friend/maid of honor Jenny (Jennifer Garner)--until he encounters the ghost of his beloved Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the aging roué who raised Connor and his brother after the death of their parents and the man who taught Connor his sub-“Maxim” lessons on dealing with women. Uncle Wayne informs him that his life has been a waste and that a trio of ghosts from his past, present and future will be arriving to take him on a guided tour of his failed relationships in the hopes of teaching him the error of his ways. When Connor isn’t revisiting his lightly dressed past and seeing how much of a hollow lie his life has been, he tries to reconcile with Jenny--the girl who inadvertently inspired his attitude when she blew him off at a junior high dance in order to make out with another boy--even while kicking off a chain of events that threatens the nuptials for good. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dream of revealing how it all turns out or is it is set to the strains of an 80’s-era power ballad.

As I said before, “Ghost of Girlfriends Past” has a premise that sounds intriguing at first blush, a riff on “A Christmas Carol” with a womanizer at the center instead of a miser, but as it goes on, it quickly becomes apparent that screenwriters Jon Lucas & Scott Moore never figured out how to take it to the next level. There are some amusing moments here and there during the scenes in which the ghost of Connor’s first conquest, a gum-smacking teeny-bopper played by the energetic Emma Stone, takes him on a tour of his romantic past and the trail of comely wreckage that he has left behind, but when it comes to dealing with the present and the future, the film is so clueless as to what to do that the Ghost of Girlfriends Present turns out to be someone who is neither Connor’s girlfriend nor a ghost. Another problem is that nearly all of the main characters are unlikable at best and loathsome at worst. Even Jenny, who is meant to be the sweetheart of the film, is actually quite a bit of a pill herself if you think about it for a few seconds--it is her, after all, who runs out on Connor in junior high to swap spit with a ninth grader and then acts all wounded when he ignores her after getting his cool lessons from Uncle Wayne, a pattern that she seems content to repeat throughout their lives. As for the leads, they generate zero sparks in their scenes together and seem downright bored when they aren’t--McConaughey is playing the same laid-back rogue that he has been coasting on for several years now while Garner is stuck with the kind of go-nowhere, do-nothing role that she probably thought that she had long escaped from thanks to the success of such things as “Alias” and “Juno.”

“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” does have a few laughs scattered here and there and they come almost exclusively from the performances of veteran character actor Robert Forster and Michael Douglas. The former plays the role of the bride’s ex-Marine father, the kind of hard-ass who recounts a brutal combat tale as part of a wedding toast and who contemptuously (and inexplicably) refers to Connor as “Paco” throughout--he doesn’t really have much of anything to do but his drier-than-dry line readings do inspire some big laughs. As for Douglas, he is clearly having a blast as Uncle Wayne, a character seemingly comprised of equal parts Robert Evans and Jack Nicholson, and every time he swoops in with his aviator glasses and ever-present glass of straight scotch, the film perks up to the point where you actually begin to think that it might turn itself around after all. It doesn’t, though if someone were to propose a sequel in which Forster and Douglas go off on a road trip, I would probably be first in line.

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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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