- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
t pains me that “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” is a New Line movie. This is The House That Freddy Built, for crying out loud. If you had come to them in 1988 with a script called “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” they would have said, “Sweet, dead girlfriends terrorizing the lovers who spurned them from beyond the grave! Get Wes Craven on the phone.” In the hands of today’s New Line, however, “Ghosts” is a rather pedestrian rom-com whose parts are far better than the sum. Granted, the old New Line dabbled in the pedestrian as well (three words: “Drop Dead Fred,” which Universal is remaking, ugh). But the old New Line also made “Se7en,” “Dark City,” “Magnolia,” “Sid and Nancy,” “The Player,” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Movies like “The Notebook” used to be their exception. Now, they are the rule. Freddy and Jason cannot be pleased by this development.
“Ghosts” is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” set to the tune of a terminal bachelor, namely fashion photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey). Connor’s younger brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) is getting married, and the maid of honor is Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), Connor’s childhood friend and long-suppressed love of his life. After Connor makes an insulting speech during the rehearsal dinner about love being for the weak-minded, Connor is visited by his late Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), a swinger who taught Connor his playa skills. Wayne warns Connor that he is going to be visited by girlfriends from his past, present and future, and they will force him to confront the errors of his ways. Cue the ‘80s references, angry exes, and death.
In order for “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” to work, the lead character must be established as an incorrigible scoundrel, and while the script succeeds in doing so, it does so at the expense of all logic and reason. Find me the person that has actually said what Connor says to his brother and everyone at their table during the rehearsal dinner, and I’ll show you someone with an all-new set of teeth. A bachelor might think that speech, but he would never say it, especially to his own brother and his bride-to-be. The screenwriters – both men, for the record – probably think that their story is feminist in tone since the guy gets his comeuppance, but it’s actually just the opposite. Connor is so transparent with his motives that any woman who falls for his technique is played for a fool. If it’s only the smart ones that refuse to go to bed with Connor, isn’t that the same as saying that most women are stupid?
And yet, there is considerable talent here. After all, the idea of McConaughey, Garner and Douglas making a romantic comedy with director Mark Waters (“The Spiderwick Chronicles,” “Just Like Heaven”) is a slam dunk, at least on paper. And every once in a while, the talent flexes its muscle and shows what they’re capable of; Douglas is clearly having a ball playing horn dog Uncle Wayne – he also has a great line about spooning – and Emma Stone steals the movie as Allison, the Girlfriend of Connor’s Past. Robert Forster, however, is wasted as Sarge, Paul’s future father-in-law, and there is no chemistry whatsoever between McConaughey and Garner. And let’s not even talk about the numerous jokes that only exist for a laugh, and make no sense in context with the story (ahem, bouquet toss).
I’d like to see this same cast and director reconvene for another project, something with a premise less gimmicky than “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.” Lord knows this group has tremendous potential, but you won’t see it here. If New Line 2.0 wants to abandon their genre roots for lighter fare, that’s fine (though they’re releasing a 3D “Final Destination” movie in August, so they haven’t completely forgotten where they came from), but they can do better than this.