Directed by: Mark Waters
Premise: A reworking of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. On the eve of his brother’s wedding, a cynical bachelor (Matthew McConaughey) is taken through his romantic history by a series of ghosts and comes to realize the value of love and commitment.
What Works: The high points of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past involve Michael Douglas, who fills the position of Old Man Marley from Dickens’ story, as the ghost of Matthew McConaughey’s philandering uncle. Douglas channels Robert Evans both in his look and his voice and he provides the funniest material in the film. Matthew McConaughey is a talented performer although he nearly always squanders that talent by picking the most crassly commercial projects that require no ambition on his part. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is no different but there are some key moments, mostly as throwaway lines by McConaughey, that reveal a self-awareness by the filmmakers about the story that they are telling. These winks and nods keep the film from totally insulting the viewer by indicating that the film is conscious of the clichés it is working its way through.
What Doesn’t: While Ghosts of Girlfriends Past does appear to have some degree of self-awareness, it’s still no excuse for mindlessly traipsing through romantic cliché after romantic cliché the way this film does. If anything, it’s a cruel advertisement that the filmmakers know better but don’t care enough to do anything but smile and nod while they run through the same old Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy checklist. There is not one new idea, premise, or plot twist here. The only bright spot outside of Michael Douglas’ supporting role, is watching McConaughey early on in the picture. He has the usual charm but he also possesses an edgy cynicism and a compelling anti-romance argument that is actually interesting to watch. Of course, the film exorcises that out of him through the course of the story and the end result is a neutered and boring version of the character.
Bottom Line: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is another lazy romantic vehicle for Matthew McConaughey. While there are some high points here, it is also very frustrating to watch.
Episode: #240 (May 24, 2009)