“I’m gonna have to do this in bulk”
My research into the new A Christmas Carol rip-off for the rom-com demographic, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, yielded one very interesting tidbit of information—director Mark Waters received a “special thanks” on the production of Requiem for a Dream. No disrespect to the man as I’m a big fan of Mean Girls and have wanted to check out his Spiderwick Chronicles, but how does he know Darren Aronofsky? This has all of a sudden taken over my complete interest pertaining to the new Matthew McConaughey vehicle, (and yes girls, he does eventually have his shirt off, it just takes a little longer than expected—we had a bet going on before viewing in which I said he wouldn’t, but alas, a short five minute span ruined my victory). While sadly this is actually how my mind works, letting an innocuous fact about someone in relation to one of my favorite directors overshadow the issue at hand, I did seriously enjoy my time with Ghosts. Sure it was derivative; yes it was obvious; oh lord did it have a horribly orchestrated homage to Ebenezer Scrooge awakening to toss a coin to a young boy out the window in order to buy the Cratchits a turkey; but I literally had a smile on my face for the duration.
On the scale of one to ten as far as originality goes, this thing is below one. Usually that would fill my heads with preconceptions and premature hatred, so call me surprised that I unsuspectingly had a good time. It isn’t that the story of unrequited love between McConaughey’s Connor Mead, (I’m a bit perturbed that it never does get explained why Uncle Wayne calls him Dutch), and his childhood love Jenny, (Jennifer Garner), resonates at all—sadly it doesn’t—but because of the cornucopia of supporting players that outshine the story itself. Mead is a Scrooge when it comes to the conquest of women. He doesn’t believe in marriage or even love at all, stemming from a broken heart as a naïve middle-schooler watching Jenny dance with a ninth grader when he choked in asking her himself, and needs the cajoling of three ghosts armed with the reality of the loneliness his future holds to finally open his eyes to what’s right in front of him. Years of building a façade over his true feelings start to chip away as the fantastic cast works their magic.
I hate to say that the main plot thread is the least enjoyable part of the film, but it’s true. I never believed the connection between Garner’s successful, romantic doctor and McConaughey’s smarmy, reprehensible glam photographer, as the chemistry just wasn’t there. Well, I lie; it was noticeable in one scene at the end when she is locked in a car and he outside. There reactions, done in close-up without the other present in the frame, make you feel their love … only it could be a love for whomever, as they aren’t looking directly at the other. Now, I know that their relationship is the impetus for the entire production—he must overcome the indoctrinated ways of the lothario Michael Douglas’ Uncle Wayne instilled in him to win her back—but I could have cared less whether they got together or not. It’s the journey that kept me in my seat: the one-liners, (loved Douglas’ “ten pin” quip), priceless facial expressions, and all around craziness excels. Even absurd moments like the inclusion of an Olympic archer, (used twice!), are so out there that you have to chuckle at least a little bit.
The effects were nicely orchestrated, but again wholly unoriginal. You can’t help but reminisce about the brilliant Bill Murray film Scrooged at every turn. From Douglas’ ascot wearing partier, (like Murray’s once dapper boss), to Noureen DeWulf’s ghost of girlfriends present punching and abusing Connor, (exactly like Carol Kane), to the ghosts watching and waving through the window at the end, (although here they do add some laughs with Douglas attempting to pick up the three ghosts … no matter their age), it’s a carbon copy. But, like in Scrooged, the ghosts add so much levity to the proceedings. Emma Stone is fantastic as the geeky, braces-wearing, frizz-head who acts as the ghost of girlfriends past. An attractive actress, as seen in the likes of Superbad, she really sinks into the obnoxiousness and juvenility of being a sixteen-year-old outcast. And DeWulf, in a role that seemed a throwaway at the start, adds some sophistication to the world of Connor Mead as the one woman in his life he has not tried to bed—his assistant.
Rounding out the rest of the cast is Breckin Meyer, (more subdued than usual, I would have liked to see more from him), as Mead’s brother getting married; Lacey Chabert as the bride, having fun with many over-the-top sequences and reactions; and her parents played by Anne Archer and Robert Forster. Archer steals a couple scenes as the sexy older woman, partaking in a very funny moment with McConaughey at the bar, and Forster is a riot as a Korean War vet utilizing his wartime commands in the wedding rehearsals. Even the three slutty bridesmaids create some laughs on the outskirts of the otherwise boring main plot. It’s not that Garner or McConaughey are bad, they just play their roles as though themselves. With all the hustle and bustle going on, the story slowed to a crawl when focusing back on them. I literally sat through their tale in order to see the subplots continue on and the jokes surround them. So, brave the mediocrity of the overall in that you may enjoy the hilarity working on the fringes. It’ll be worth the visit even if you won’t be completely satisfied. But then I’m sure you didn’t really expect to be.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past 5/10 | ★ ★
 Connor Mead (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY) desperately tries to save the wedding cake from disaster in New Line Cinema’s romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, also starring Jennifer Garner. Photo Courtesy of New Line Cinema
 Connor Mead (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY) and Jenny Perotti (JENNIFER GARNER) reminisce in New Line Cinema’s romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Courtesy of New Line Cinema