Movie critics will not like "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," the latest spin on the whole "A Christmas Carol" tale in which a hot shot photographer, Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey), is visited by the ghosts of girlfriends past, present and future during a weekend from hell in which he nearly ruins his little brother's wedding.
Audiences, however, will enjoy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," another opportunity for McConaughey to be caddish, debonair, sexy and sweet.
Formulaic? You betcha.
Typical McConaughey. Yep. You could say that.
Have I mentioned it has been years, and I mean years, since I've recommended a McConaughey film.
I'm tired of the McConaughey shtick, in which a smarmy, supposedly sexy, successful and smart-ass player turns out to be "aw shucks" adorable.
The problem is that McConaughey simply can't play "aw shucks" adorable.
In "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," however, director Mark Waters ("Mean Girls") doesn't make McConaughey go from cad to catch. In an ever so slight spin, McConaughey's Mead simply goes from catch to wounded cad to, yes, catch again.
I'm sorry if this ruins the film for you, but really, do you think there's a chance that McConaughey doesn't get the girl in the end?
Mead lives in a world where "forking" is preferable to "spooning" and where breaking up my video conference call isn't necessarily out of the question. Much to his brother's surprise, he unexpectedly returns home for the big wedding to Sandra (Lacey Chabert), a bride almost as shrill and obnoxious as Malin Akerman in 2007's "The Heartbreak Kid." The wedding party includes three bridesmaids, two from his past, and a Maid of Honor (Jennifer Garner) who we quickly catch on is his one true love.
Before Mead can learn the error of his ways, however, chaos will ensue and a wedding will be jeopardized and three girlfriends, kinda sorta, will take him on a journey through his past, present and future.
As opposed to past couplings with the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson, Garner and McConaughey have a rather pleasing chemistry though I would argue that their scenes of feistiness and conflict are significantly more convincing than their ultimate reunion.
The same is true for the alleged destined union of Mead's brother and Sandra, a couple that seems ill-fitted at best. When Mead intervenes on his brother's behalf to save the day, one can't help but think "Um. Why?"
Yet, in the hands of director Mark Waters and screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" works a fair amount of the time largely owing to enough sharp, biting dialogue to keep the film from feeling bland much of the time.
While I've never quite figured out the whole "McConaughey is Sexy" thing, in "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" he manages to occasionally transcend his usual smarminess and, dare I say it, actually show some emotion once in awhile. McConaughey is far more entertaining when he's being a sarcastic twit, but he manages to turn down the "I'm sexy and I know it" vibe just enough that we actually do want to see this couple together by film's end.
Now then, much of this is actually due to Garner's usual dependable performance. Garner isn't called upon to do anything here that she hasn't done before, but she does this well and it works.
So why complain?
Breckin Meyer was actually a surprisingly solid choice to play the little, relatively stable brother to Connor Mead. Both actors typically project an air of distance about themselves...Meyer's typically comes off as a "good guy" detachment, while McConaughey's typically comes off as aloof conceit.
As brothers, it works strangely well.
While Chabert certainly could have toned down her performance a touch, other supporting performances play off quite nicely despite roles that largely feel underdeveloped including Sandra's minister dad (Robert Forster), her sexy mom (Anne Archer), Mead's dutiful assistant (Noureen DeWulf) and, in what amounts to an extended cameo, Michael Douglas as the uncle who raised the two Mead boys following the death of their parents at a young age.
Undoubtedly seen as an alternative to this weekend's "Wolverine" flick, "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is likely to do solid business as a decent date flick along the lines of last year's similarly timed "Made of Honor." While there's not an ounce of originality in "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," there's enough chemistry between the two leads and sharp dialogue that audiences will likely enjoy this film regardless of what film critics say.
Frequently funny and occasionally quite sweet, "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" may finally serve to validate why Hollywood seems intent on making McConaughey a rom-com leading man.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic