Review by Johanna and KC Carlson
We were interested in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past because of the cast. Not the two stars — we don’t much like Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner — but we’re big fans of Emma Stone (The House Bunny), Breckin Meyer, and Rachel Boston (whom I always remember from American Dreams, although we also enjoyed her on The Ex List). They’re only part of the incredible cast in the secondary roles, but they aren’t given enough to do. (The bridesmaids, for example, are basically all the same character.) The movie is also directed by Mark Waters, whose work we enjoyed in Mean Girls. He also did another ghostly romantic comedy, Just Like Heaven.
In this one, McConaughey is a high-powered photographer (in the Austin Powers mode, but without the self-aware humor). He takes pictures of barely dressed models, only his crew of assistants do all the work and he just wanders in and snaps the shutter. He also breaks up with multiple girlfriends on conference call in front of the newest lay. Sadly, McConaughey doesn’t have the charm to pull this off convincingly. Instead of “sexy bad boy”, he’s smarmy and greasy, pretty much the same role from all of his movies. As he ages, he’s also looking a bit more “rode hard and put away wet”, as they say in the South.
The plot requires him to return for his brother’s wedding, where he runs into Jennifer Garner, maid of honor, former girlfriend, and unacknowledged love of his life. After insulting everyone during the rehearsal toast by calling love a myth, he is visited by memories of women past, present, and future in a very loose retelling of A Christmas Carol. Instead of money, McConaughey’s character is miserly about love, so they want to convince him how wrong he is before he dies alone, although that might be difficult since Lacey Chabert is playing a stereotypical overwrought bridezilla. It’s difficult to believe in the message of love when you find yourself wondering what anyone would see in her in every scene where she appears.
The introductory ghost (think Marley) is played by Michael Douglas as McConaughey’s notorious cocksman uncle, a globe-trotting compatriot of the Rat Pack. I appreciated seeing Douglas as an old school cruiser giving seduction advice, but I found it a little superficial that the younger man’s very first crush not working out was enough to make him a lifelong player. After the comedy of Douglas’ appearance, though, the moviemakers wind up trying for heart-warming, which McConaughey is particularly bad at.
Emma Stone is flat-out amazing as McConaughey’s first “love” after he became a player and thus the Ghost of Girlfriends Past. She’s teened-up with freckles, a really bad perm, and braces, and she doesn’t take any of his crap, even when called upon to narrate what we already know. She was my favorite part of the movie, especially since her and McConaughey driving his bed around to the memories is pretty funny.
At the end, we couldn’t decide which was creepier: the message that the perfect girl was the very first one he was ever interested in, the one he knew since the age of 10, or the idea that the plot is really about how knowing Michael Douglas turns a normal kid into Matthew McConaughey. The ending is flatly unbelievable, from the icy car chase to the heartfelt speeches. (Which is given, not to his supposed love interest, but his brother’s, in an odd switch.) It’s a shame, because I liked the movie, except for the actors playing the lead roles. Although there are some funny moments, it would have been funnier if they’d been more willing to accept the ridiculousness and make it a full-on farce … and ditch some of the mush. The tone was very patchy, which is a script problem. It felt like someone who didn’t really know what women like to watch tried to make it more of a “chick flick”.
The DVD is a bare-bones disc. The viewer can choose Full Screen or Widescreen, but there are no other extras — all the puffy featurettes and extra scenes are only on the Blu-ray. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past will be available on DVD, On Demand, and via digital download on Tuesday, September 22. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)